Changing my views on Learning

How teaching helped me learn 

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been tutoring a student, named…well, for the sake of confidentiality, let’s call him “Max.” Max has been having trouble with algebra for a while and his dad thought it might be helpful to have me help him so he’s prepared for school next year.

A lot of times, when I asked if he understood a concept, he said yes, but in reality, he didn’t really get it at all. I told him that it was totally fine if he didn’t understand a concept right away. It would be better to tell the truth and have me re-explain it than to lie and then struggle with the topic in the future. However, he kept lying and saying he understood things when he actually didn’t. I had to change my strategy and start assuming that when he said that he understood something, he really didn’t. I was getting kind of irritated and annoyed when I realized…I do this too!!!!! I was being such a hypocrite, when in fact, I often lie to the teacher at school to fake understanding of a topic, when I really didn’t get it all. Tons of students in my class did this as well. …Why??? Why were we all so silly to lie like this? All we were doing was making our own education more difficult.

I think it’s because of the mentality we have at school. We are so afraid of looking dumb in front of the class, in front of the teacher, or in the face of college boards, that we fake it. “Fake it ’till you make it” may work in plenty of other cases, but in the case of learning, it’s more like “Fake it ’till you fail it.” Faking isn’t learning. Students are so pressured to be perfect at school: Smart, intelligent, understand everything on the first try. But that’s not reality. In reality, it may take many different tries and angles to truly comprehend a topic. In order to fix this problem, I think that the entire school mindset has to change.

When I was little, I used to think school was all about learning. But now, it seems more like school is all about passing. Students get so wrapped up in passing the class–faking perfection, that they don’t bother to learn while they’re at it. I’m pretty guilty of this myself. Though I try to learn, it’s hard not to just follow everyone else’s lead and focus on passing instead. High school has become more of an audition for college than a place to learn and grow. Students pick classes that will look best on their transcript rather than classes that focus on what they want to learn. They take extracurriculars that are known to impress colleges rather than ones they enjoy. And it’s not just students who are guilty of this. Parents and teachers tend to add to the trouble. Seriously, if I hear an adult say “It looks good on college applications” one more time, I’m going to burst!

Going back to Max, I tried to empathize with him. I understood how he felt about having to fake understanding. I explained that I also do the same things sometimes, but it really only leads to more trouble. Faking means you have understand the topic all over again, but this time, without the support of a teacher. Or even worse, sometimes kids fake it and then don’t bother to try and understand the topic again. I think Max understood exactly what I meant by this
He has definitely gotten a lot better. His algebra skills have improved and he tells me when he doesn’t understand something. However, in the long run I think this might just be a temporary fix. I’m afraid that once we go back to school, we’ll fall right back into old habits. The only real solution is to fix the broken mentality we have forced on us at school.

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