I recently met a veteran, expensive ($150 per hour) NYC-based SAT tutor and he told me, “I don’t care what anyone says, as a tutor you CAN’T get anything done in an hour…”
He elaborated and said that he only does sessions of a minimum of 1.5 hours because, “…it’s only in that last half-hour that the real learning actually happens.”
That conversation took place a couple months ago and the more I reflect upon it, and the more individual students I work with, the more I am inclined to completely agree with his *an hour is worthless* assertion.
It jibes with my own personal learning and teaching experience. My accelerated math classes have been mostly 2 hour sessions and by the end of them, I can all but see *brain enlargement*. And sometimes, as a group we get so deep into a subject that we forget to take a 5 minute mid-point break and/or the kids voluntarily stay well past the 2 hour allotment.
Furthermore, in raising my own two little math genii, I realized that I almost never did short sessions. On the contrary, sometimes I’d have the kids (when struggling or doing sloppy work) sit and do math for upwards of 4 hours straight.
Looking it all this collectively, I’ve come to conclude that the standard 40-minute class period in conventional schools is a complete joke. Think about it….if a one-on-one session requires longer than a full hour to make headway, then how useless is 40 minutes in a group environment!
And how useless is spending an entire day in wholly ineffective 40-minute sessions???
I can’t find it right now, but I’ve actually read that the jerks that designed schools 100 years or so ago intentionally devised the short class structure because they didn’t want the kids to go too deeply into any one subject.
Anyways, here’s John Taylor Gatto weighing in and lamenting on his teaching career:
“The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch. I demand that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. But when the bell rings I insist that they drop the work at once and proceed quickly to the next work station. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of.
The lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Bells are the secret logic of schooltime; their argument is inexorable; bells destroy past and future, converting every interval into a sameness, as an abstract map makes every living mountain and river the same even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.“