By Wendy Dubit
When I was tutoring “learning disabled”
youth, they almost universally disliked reading, writing
and arithmetic, but LOVED pizza, and had at least one favorite
subject…be it animals, sports, travel or toys.
In those cases, we worked together to start
a pizza business and a magazine based on their greatest
For the magazine, we’d come up with
a name, discuss an editorial style, assign articles to each
other (both journalistic and editorial), research for and
write articles, edit and proof each others’ articles,
As for the business, “pizza”
became the best math teacher I’ve ever met -- able
to impart measurement, multiplication, division and fractions
in a highly hands-on and relevant manner; on top of which,
basic math could be taught via accounting.
These real-world scenarios seemed to work
in consistently delicious (especially since we were able
to make, eat and deliver pizza as part of the math process)
and uniquely individual (each magazine and article being
wholly different) ways. Plus, the fact that students were
regularly able to correct my math and proof my writing not
only leveled the playing field, kept them more alert, boosted
their confidence, and made them more open to feedback; but
it also taught them “career” skills, expectations,
language and practices whose precepts could last a lifetime.
One day, when I was demonstrating this
teaching method in front of a group of fellow educators,
a student blew me away by stepping up to the microphone
to make an unexpected plea.
“I hope you won’t judge Wendy
too harshly,” he began. “I’ve caught the
math errors she’s made. I’ve corrected her typos.
But I’ve been able to help her a lot. She tries hard
and is getting better. I only ask that you be patient with
her, like I am.”
The audience fell silent at first, but
then broke into huge applause. It was clear to all that
the boundary between teacher and student had dissolved.
And it was clearer still that, in truth, we teach each other.