As a tutor I have the privilege to work with students one on one. Because we work so closely together, (across a table as opposed to across a classroom) I can easily pick up on a student's emotional state.
What do I for the teen who is bored? A teen without focus or passion for learning. A teen who is basically floundering.
First we talk about how she spends her time. Are there outdoor activities, friends, computer gaming, reading, cooking, or crafts that he enjoys? Is there an activity that he wants to accomplish but hasn't had the chance to try? We make a list of all the activities we can think of - those accomplished and those wished for. We make a list of the top five wishes. It is now my job to incorporate these wishes into teaching opportunities.
For example, I have a student who goes to the public high school part time and tutors with me part time. He has tried for two years to get into the cooking class at the high school with no result. As a part time student, he is on the bottom of the totem pole when classes are handed out. He has lamented the fact that he really wants to learn to cook, but he can't get into a cooking class. He wishes he knew how to bake cookies from scratch.
Our goal this year in tutoring is to teach him the skills he needs to do well on the GED tests. The math section of the GED test is comprised of basic math as well as many story problems using fractions, decimals, percentages, proportions, and probability. I hear my student say to me on Tuesday, "I wish I could make cookies." On Thursday he says, "I don't understand fractions." Hmmmmmmm. Many of you will see where this is going.
I went shopping today and bought chocolate chips. When my student comes to tutor on Tuesday, I will have a surprise for him. We will make cookies together.
As we bake he will use the measuring cups and teaspoons. While the cookies are baking we will figure out how to double and triple the recipe (adding and multiplying fractions). We will learn how much flour we need for one batch and then compute what we would need for five batches (proportions). We'll figure out the cost of making a batch of cookies and then figure out how much we would need to charge per cookie if we were to have a back sale (decimals and percentages).
He'll be able to SEE how math works and he'll be happy and excited in the learning. I'll ask him to create story problems that I can give to other students - then he becomes the teacher and he owns the material.
I know that this activity will put a little light back into my student's eyes for learning; he'll remember that learning is fun. Most of all, he will know that I listened and heard him when he told me what he most wanted to do - make cookies. It is my joy, as the tutor, to work his wishes into lessons that will give him concrete understanding of the math concepts and operations that he needs to know not only for the GED, but for everyday life.
I enjoy exploring what makes all my students tick. To that end, my house is full of toys: I always have hands-on experiments going in electronics, chemistry, physics, and biology, as well as math toys available, books for reading, games for writing, and much more. I LOVE my job!