I think law school has ruined the ability to teach my kids – not that it had a whole lot to ruin anyway. Nobody has ever claimed I’ve been a fantastic teacher of, well, stuff. But any chance I ever had to be even a little decent at teaching and helping my kids with their school work went down the drains somewhere about three semesters into law school.
I struggled with math when I was in high school and junior high. Teachers didn’t understand why I didn’t understand what they were teaching either. I got lost way back when the teachers started talking about things like sign and cosign and square roots, etc. I got lost wondering what those things even meant and why they did what they did and I never grasped it, and that was mostly because nobody was willing to explain that part of it to me.
Anyway, knowing my likely career path didn’t require anything more than the minimum amount of math, I learned how to coast through my math courses. That coasting largely consisted of developing code for my TI-85 calculator so that I could select the relevant formula programmed into my calculator, plug the numbers into the calculator, and write down the answers spit out by the calculator on my answer sheet.
My grades in math began to rise and my parents thought I finally figured it out and they arranged for me to help a neighbor girl who was struggling with the same concepts. The girl arrived ready to have a lesson on how and why all of these formulas being thrown out worked, and instead she got a lesson on how to copy the programming from my TI-85 calculator and enter it into her TI-85 calculator. My first experience as a tutor was a giant fail.
I wouldn’t take that same method of teaching math or any other concepts with my own kids, but it doesn’t really matter since I’m doing just as poorly with my kids as I did with that girl almost two decades ago. It seems now I’m only capable of using the dreaded Socratic Method when teaching my kids. For those who don’t know what the Socratic Method is, it’s the way professors in law school teach law students. It’s basically the professor drilling the student with a series of questions looking for a series of certain answers. Until the student can guess what answer the teacher is looking for, the student is left feeling like a complete moron.
That method works okay when teaching law students, but it completely sucks when teaching an 8 year-old. Oh sure, the 8 year-old will eventually grasp the concepts, but not until she develops a deep resentment for you as a teacher/tutor. Yeah, that’s where I’m at with Addie right now.
So far I have been left to help Addie with some of her homework the last week and those sessions have resulted in many tears. My approach completely clashes with Addie’s personality. She’s a sensitive girl and she likes to be guided when she’s confused. The problem is that she sometimes gives up immediately and asks to have the problems solved for her, which is not something I’m willing to do. So no matter how hard I try to get into the mode of explaining how things work or why things work, as soon as she gives some of her giving upedness, I immediately revert to the Socratic Method and the tears begin to flow.
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