Out-of-School with a Broken Hand….

(Not my actual student, of course.)

This post is an example of the challenging situations tutors must sometimes deal with.

I’ve recently taken on a difficult three-month tutoring assignment for a student who is between schools and in a personal situation where she is unable to attend class.  The school has agreed to give her credit for the rest of the year if she works with a private tutor on her own.  She also has a broken right arm and fingers with a cast on which covers her fingers (and yes, she is right-handed).  She needs to be taught in every subject, so it is essentially like home-schooling.  In addition, student will not be able to write (or type) for 6-8 weeks (other than making a few scratch marks with the left hand) so this presents many additional challenges.

In addition to other students I’m tutoring for several hours every evening (in a variety of grades and subjects), I’ve taken on the high school student two hours every weekday morning.

This requires a lot of preparation on my part–as much as an ordinary classroom teacher doing three subject preparations a night.  However, part of the reason I’ve agreed to do this (from a personal standpoint) is that in a couple years, I expect to have other students in the same classes, and will be prepared to teach and tutor students in those classes at that time.  So I am improving my own skills and knowledge at the same time.

We’ve created a notebook divided into subjects.    With teachers on vacation and insufficient input from the school (at least at this point) rather than wait an additional two weeks for school to resume (since the student has already missed a month of school) I’ve jumped in and created a plan for each subject, and we have just jumped in and attacked them.  I’m pleased with my student so far.  I already taught her in a lower grade, and know her family well.  I’ve found she shows up on time, is always prepared with what I ask her to read, seems motivated, and has a good attitude.

I realized after looking at the math text book that she needs a specialized math tutor, which I have arranged to start with her in a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, I’m getting her up-to-speed on a few pre-algebra parts of arithmetic she has missed along the way.  At the moment we are working on divisibility rules, and will follow with factoring, GCF and LCM.  One small problem I’ve run into is with the 7 divisibility rule (sometimes it works, and with some numbers it doesn’t work especially when they are larger numbers of five or six places).  Brian, any thoughts on this?

Divisibility Rules

Divisibility Rules

In  English the school is reading Shakespeare–one of the plays I’ve never read–and I actually know very little about Shakespeare.    Reading ahead each night and preparing notes both for my own use and the student’s use, I’m learning very quickly.  This will be followed by Great Expectations, which I’ve never read either.

Teaching Shakespeare in high school


I haven’t had time to start preparing Western Civ. yet, but they are studying Rome, and I presume will be moving into the Middle Ages.  The school is using quite a difficult university-level text book, Judith Coffin’s Western Civilization.  My thought at present is to read through the text book and outline the material, producing a study guide for the student.

I studied biology in 1970, and of course it has progressed dramatically since that time.  At the moment, we are studying microbiology.  In preparing to teach the student I found that our text books (2004) are teaching the old classifications of these organisms, so I  decided that I needed to teach her both the old and new classifications.   (I found out about the new classifications from reading on the internet.)

"Old" Classifications of Prokaryotes

"Old" Classifications of Prokaryotes

I found it extremely complicated, so to make it clear for both myself and the student I prepared several diagrams (in duplicate) to make it more clear.  I enjoy science, but most definitely do not have a university science background as a teacher.

"New" Classifications of Prokaryotes

"New" Classifications of Prokaryotes

These pages are some examples of what I prepared for my first lesson with my student.

The Four Main Characteristics Used to Identify Prokaryotes

The Four Main Characteristics Used to Identify Prokaryotes

I realized very quickly that what I’m teaching the student may not be the same as what the classroom teacher teaches her students.  So essentially, it is as if the student is in another class in the same grade.  I’m not sure yet if the student will be required to take the same tests (or how these might be sent back and forth, perhaps in sealed envelopes), OR if some other projects could be substituted for the regular classroom work, but I hope we will work out these details with the school when everything gets back.

–Lynne Diligent


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2 Responses to “Out-of-School with a Broken Hand….”

  1. 100swallows Says:

    “I realized very quickly that what I’m teaching the student may not be the same as what the classroom teacher teaches her students.”
    This is a big problem for all kinds of help and tutoring, isn’t it? “You can teach my child English any way you want to,” says the mother, “but of course my first concern is his grades. Here is his school textbook and exercise book.” And from that moment the private teacher becomes a servant of the child’s classroom teacher, however ignorant or mistaken, and of the textbook authors and their method, however silly.

    Spanish children study English at school from kindergarten on and by the time they are 12 they are able to say “meow” (though with a heavy accent). They understand nothing. Ignoring their teachers and their method, you can get all but a few of them at that age to an intermediate level in about two years. But their parents have to bet on you, even when for awhile their child’s grades don’t rise spectacularly.

  2. Graphical boy Says:

    It can be so difficult for a student who has broken his/her primary hand.

    I merely broke a finger (the little finger) on my right hand (I’m right-handed) and had to wear it in a cast when I was in fourth or fifth grade – the little finger and ring finger were enclosed together in a cast till the bone set itself.

    I did get some respite from my teachers in the form of written homework being waived off, but I had to usually do it orally in class which was a fair and reasonable deal.

    However, I had to write the examinations at the end of the term. Thankfully, the finger had mostly healed by then, though the two fingers were still plastered together (without a cast). I was able to write the examinations – or scribble them, I should say.

    I can understand how difficult it would be for someone who has broken an entire arm when in a higher grade.

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