Monday, September 12, 2011

-18x + 16 = 25

What a thrill, I'm with the Pope! See Page 17 of our Erie Catholic diocese's September-October edition--OR--you can just read my column here:

I’ve spent a good deal of time tutoring since I left full-time teaching. Most of it involves “prepping” for the college entrance exams—the SATs or the ACTs. Recently I spent some sessions with a junior who had taken the tests in early spring but was unhappy with his math score and was determined to take the tests as many times as needed to get the score he wanted. Since he’s dreaming of pre-med I could understand his concern.

I don’t believe in trying to teach too much of the actual mathematics learned in algebra, geometry or trigonometry during these sessions. I’d rather do problems and "diagnose them" especially with the challenging or tricky problems that go way beyond a textbook’s presentations.

With this latest student I soon realized that it wasn’t a matter of knowing the college prep mathematics. He knew it quite well and had good recall. It was not a matter of memorized facts or regurgitated knowledge. It was about learning to think. Every time I realize that we’re getting to that point with a student I say to myself yet again, “How do you teach someone how to think?”

The pace of the life doesn't help thinking: fast, busy, over-involved and committed. None of us seemed to be in a lifestyle that fosters much learning through “thinking.” Undaunted, every time I jump into the hardest problems somehow, in one of the mysterious parts of teaching, something does happen--more miraculously than controlled--and we move into the realm of "thinking."

This latest junior did get it and not only did his scores go up, but I could tell he was sensing a different way of going about it. He was beginning to think.

There is a strong analogy here to our spiritual life. After learning the catechism questions and answers, adult Christians, both young and old, must face a spirituality and relationship with God that takes qualities far beyond black and white facts. It takes praying, learning, searching, faith development, love and the building of a mature relationship with your God. It's not easy and it certainly continues throughout a lifetime--not just for a few weeks before an important test.

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I was out near the peninsula this week and caught these photos in the early evening: