Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Primary Way in Which Teaching is Easier Than Tutoring -- Prep Time Amortization

I've done plenty of teaching in the past 5 years, and I've also done plenty of tutoring. 

Teaching is what I do exclusively now, and it's what's in the cards for me for many years to come.  For many reasons, I far prefer classroom teaching to one-on-one tutoring, and one the most important of those reasons is this:  the way the necessary preparation time amortizes with experience

You might *think* this to be the case with tutoring -- after all, take subjects like Calculus, Economics, Statistics, Accounting, etc.  They don't really change much year to year, right?  You learn the material once and then you just sort of have it, right?

Not exactly.  Every instructor at every school teaches each of those subjects just a bit differently.  Interpreting meaning can sometimes be just as difficult for a tutor as it is for a student.  I still remember the Macroeconomics Professor who tried to explain everything through these way-too-unnecessarily-complex arrow diagrams.  All of the assignments were based on those diagrams, so as someone who hadn't ever been to the class, trying to help someone who had (but was lost) had a deaf-leading-the-blind sort of pain factor to it. 

Even at the time, I had begun teaching part-time, and I figured out the key difference between the two jobs -- playing offense vs. playing defense (pardon me now as I blur the metaphor across different sports).

Offense is fun.  On offense, you control the flow of the game.  You decide where the ball or the puck goes.  If you don't like how a play is unfolding, you can simply stop the play.  You can run out of bounds (we'll take our break now), you can throw a challenge flag (that's not relevant to this, but...) or you can even break out the old hidden ball play (I'm not sure what that meant, so I took those slides out of the deck 10 minutes prior). 

On defense, you have to be Grant Fuhr and Patrick Roy every single time.  That gets really stressful, and no matter how good your reflexes, no matter how sharp your skates, no matter how solid your pads, you can't keep every puck outside of your net. 

As a result, the preparation time required for playing defense -- and really playing it well, at the honest-to-goodness NHL equivalent -- never really goes away.  It drops off a little, but that's it.

Offense, on the other hand?  Way different.  It's really hard to do the first time.  But once you've moved the chains all the way down the field once?  You work out the kinks, you know what the endstate looks like, and you can far more easily brainstorm better ways to get from A to B.  But when you don't even know what B looks like, because you've never seen it?  Pardon the cliche, but it's the proverbial building-the-plane-in-midair problem. 

You're not really supposed to get stale, and you shouldn't, but if you have to wing a class you've taught 11 times before?  Yeah, you can do it.  It's your show. 

Even when you really do it right, and you're updating your stuff, your prep-to-class ratio is still probably somewhere around 1:1, which is far better than the 6:1 or even 10:1 that a first time go-around can require. 

Right now, I've got three new classes running a la fois, in addition to one that I've done umphteen times.  That one?  I still go full-tilt on grading, but prep is a breeze.  Those other three, though?  I can assure you, I'm feeling the full weight.  

But I also know that there's a wonderful silver lining to it all -- it'll be far, far easier to do any of these again.  And even easier the time after that, and so on. 

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