There’s a problem with the education system these days. Not exactly with the higher education system, but with the elementary and high school systems.
Like I’ve said before, I work with a program called Upward Bound. It gives teenagers who normally would not have a chance to get into college a chance to. They work with low income, first generation students. And since I started working with the program, it has changed a lot. Mostly for the good, but not in all ways.
The students often tell me how the classes they take during the summer and then tell me how much the classes during the school year are boring and awful and they just can’t wait to not be in school.
Learning is a natural thing. Most people really enjoy learning and like to do it. You find someone who’s curious about something, and they’ll study it until they can’t study it anymore.
Find someone who likes biology, and they’ll read and study and learn until they’re satisfied. They simply cannot get enough of it.
For me, it’s kind of how I enjoy tutoring and teaching math. I will constantly look up and come up with new ways to teach and tutor. I will spend hours looking up problems to challenge those I’m tutoring. And I’d be willing to tutor students for free.
Because I enjoy this type of education. I enjoy watching how people learn, how they react when they figure things out, how they think through things when it’s difficult for them.
I enjoy teaching, and because of that I study it. If you can find that you’re going to be so much further ahead that hundreds of thousands of students in the United States.
Now before I go much further, I don’t have a ton of solid research, although I can speak from experience with the students that I’ve worked with in the past.
Just today I tutored three students in Algebra 2/Trig for the New York State Regents coming up later this month. And they didn’t pass it, but they weren’t far from passing at all. But the way the material was taught is where the difficulty seemed to lie.
In the regular school system, students lack challenges. The teachers spoon-feed them material, building it up a little bit at a time. I took a different approach and gave them seventeen problems, all of them difficult and straight from past regents. I didn’t leave them completely alone, I gave them a set of facts to memorize (most of the basics that they need for almost any and every problem they didn’t have memorized.
So I gave them an incentive, on top of studying for the regents, I told them that the first person to get seventeen of the problems right would get a bag of candy.
And the three boys sat there for three hours and worked on the problems. When they had questions they would ask me or explain it to each other. And they came up with their own ways to manipulate the problems and get the correct answers.
And I got to do what I liked best, which was teach and watch them learn. By the end of the session, can you guess what the result was?
One who was having the most difficulty was only needing help on getting an idea of the first step to start the problem. At the beginning of the session he looked at the problems and pretty much said “F**k this.” Yet he had taught himself pretty much everything by the end of the session.
The second worked quietly and patient throughout the session and by the end had taught himself how to manipulate problems around to get the answers.
And the third student was considered the weakest link by the other two, and he was the one who got every problem right on the first try.
This all comes back to my point at the beginning of there is something wrong with the way the elementary and high school systems are set up.
For the majority of students, the only incentive they get is “Good job!” and a number on a piece of paper. Teachers are so focused on teaching to the exam and how to pass it that the students become bored and never even learn the material they should know.
Do I have a solution? Unfortunately not. Although I can tell you that this is something that crosses my mind a lot. It’s something that I think about and study because, well, I like learning about it. I’m sure there will be more pieces like this to come.