¿Entiendes Gatsby?

Okay, so I still haven’t quite mastered the art of talking about something education-related and sounding intelligent while also being personal/ranting, so bear with me. But I wanted to talk about what I did last night.

Last night, I came home, ate dinner, and hung about idly in our dining room, trying to think of something to do that wasn’t homework, and my sister’s friend asked for my help.

A couple of things. First, I’ll admit that I live at home. I choose to do this for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that it is a hell of a lot cheaper than living in the dorms or renting in an apartment. Second, it’s no great secret among my family that I love English and I always offer my assistance to my brother and sister, no matter how many times they ignore me (my enthusiasm is just that extensive).

Anyway, back on point. My sister and her friend are taking AP Lit this year, my favoriteclass in high school, and they’re currently reading The Great Gatsby, which is one of my favorite books. Her friend asked me to look over her dialectical journal, which is basically pick three quotes from the chapter, analyze them, and then talk about them in the big picture of things in the novel. Looking at them, I realized she had missed the purpose of the assignment and hadn’t done them quite right, and my sister and I agreed she had missed the third point entirely.

So here’s a question: what do you do when a student asks you to look over an assignment and you see they did it wrong? Here’s what I did and at the time it felt like the right choice, but I’ve been told multiple times that what I think is best when it comes to teaching sometimes seriously misses the mark.

I know my sister’s friend quite well, and I knew if I told her that she didn’t do the assignment right, she’d probably start completely over, and that seemed extremely counterproductive. So I told her not to fix the ones she’s already done (she’d only done five quotes so far), but for the next seven chapters to do it the correct way. Then, I proceeded to walk her through each of her quotes – why she picked it, what it meant to the story, what big theme it possessed – and she picked the theme and I simply asked her to explain why she picked it.

The thing about my sister’s friend (and my sister, to a much lesser extent) is that convinced that she is unintelligent and so constantly fishes for reassurance that she’s not. We are all perfectly aware that she is particularly self-conscious about her writing and analyzing literature, so I asked her to pick the theme and explain it because I was trying to boost her confidence. Sometimes she missed the mark by a hair and sometimes she missed me subtly trying to point her in the right direction, but I believe firmly in the fact that nearly everything in literature is up for debate as long as you can explain your reasoning.

This went okay. She got the homework done and hopefully learned something (I explained to her the significance of colors, seasons, and ghosts), but I have this annoying habit of kinda sorta doing other people’s homework when they ask for my help. I think I was probably more helpful when she then asked me to help her with her Spanish homework (I haven’t done a Spanish worksheet in a year and a half…)

Hmm, I feel like I might’ve had a point somewhere and it’s just been lost in my aimless rambling. I’m not nearly as good as this as a lot of other people in this class. I don’t want to rant, I don’t want to respond to issues (I get lost in the politics anyway), but sharing pieces of yourself and your opinions and just your general life with a group of complete strangers… It’s ridiculously hard. And I don’t really like it doing it. But I am trying.

Basically, the point is I was practicing my teaching skills and I think I did okay. I won’t be up for any awards any time soon, but at least I don’t think I screwed my sister’s friend up.

And I hope I was right about Dr. Eckleberg’s eyes…


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