Wednesday, October 17, 2012

School's out, consultation's in!

Now we're neck deep in consultation with the kids, it's time to review some tips for surviving the deluge of kids looking for a little personal attention:

Protect the larynx. Stay hydrated during and between consults. But since prevention is better than cure, opt to listen more and talk less. See next tip.

Avoid unnecessary pre-consult marking. There just isn't time. Make the consultees read their prepared essays or other written work aloud during consult so they learn to catch their own language errors -- and hopefully their own logical fallacies as well. The ear is a much stronger facility for filtering arguments; whereas the eye, being more directly wired to the brain and hence apprehends input without the mediation of language, tends to overlook such details. By training ourselves to listen effectively we can improvise with any question without prior preparation.

Schedule decent breaks. The demands we are putting on our brains is taxing and makes us prone to error over time. Breaks need to be spent with people we can be stupid with, preferably over a beverage and motivational food. We probably do not want to be seen in this state by our consultees, so our choice of recreation venue should minimize the chance of contact with them... but that's a judgement call. Some of us are not so sensitive about this point.

Get sufficient sleep the night before. Falling asleep while in consult can be quite demotivating to the kids. While it's an opportunity to give them a taste of their own medicine, it's best not to exact our revenge so close to the finals. We don't really want them to reappear next year to haunt us again.

Be realistic. Assess the consultee's capabilities at the time of consult. We work with what we judge they are capable of offering. Some kids just need shoring up and some positive reinforcement while others can be stretched a bit further. Regardless, the kids should feel better after the consult, not worse. What we don't want is to make them think that the standards are so high that they might as well give up now.

Enjoy the period of consultation. (1) We are free of the timetable! (2) We always look forward to teaching a class that is attentive, hangs on our every word, is generally responsive with feedback and asks its own questions. We'll never get it any better than when we have them one (or small group)-to-one  Two years they spend in class, but we actually see their learning expand exponentially here in the last few weeks before the finals. While on one hand that's rewarding, on the other it's just not an efficient learning schedule. I'm sure there's got to be a better way to do this.

Finally, 'Academic Consultant' has a classier ring than 'cher! Relish it while it lasts!

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