In Truth, We Teach Each Other….

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 passions.

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, and more.

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.

 

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