/  By  / 

The power of working with students one on one

favicon It’s pretty amazing what happens when students work with me one on one.

Their learning is accelerated. Their learning is deeper.

Yesterday, a student and I spent 10 minutes at Lunch on basic math skills. He’s trying to pass the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). We added fractions and dealt with decimals. Years of math phobia, anguish, and avoidance disappeared. Together, we got past his shame. It was wonderful.

So was the 10 minutes I spent yesterday after school with a student on her grammar. Not only did she fix every single grammar error in her essay, but she also learned about run-on sentences and the serial comma. We even had time to study for today’s quiz — on which she earned a perfect score.

These little vignettes remind me of three things:

1. Teaching and learning are easy and fun given time, space, and relationship.

2. We need to invest much more money and many more resources into after-school tutoring.

3. I need to figure out a way to encourage more of my students to work with me one on one.

I really can’t figure out #3. My students know that it’s beneficial to come after school. But they, in general, don’t show up. This year, I don’t have the capacity to do a mandatory after-school program. Even if I did, I’m unsure about whether I’m philosophically in favor of such an approach, particularly with older students. It’s definitely something I need to think more about.

Please let me know your thoughts and ideas. favicon


  1. John at TestSoup

    Sometimes I think it helps to remember the old cliches… In this case:

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

    Don’t worry about getting 100% buy-in. It will never happen — even if you require it.

    Instead, help those you can. Always make it obvious that you’re willing to help the rest. And those who want to will come to you.

  2. Mark Isero

    John, I think I agree with you. After all, motivation plummets when something becomes mandatory. And I want students to want to attend office hours — to make their own decision to do so. Nevertheless, it’s my job to interrupt predictable patterns of achievement. So maybe my goal is not to get 100% buy-in but rather 100% buy-in from students who are struggling.

Please share your brilliant insights!