DEAR ABBY: I would like to comment on your May 29 reply to "Helping or Cheating?" the young lady who has been helping her boyfriend with his homework. I can see where someone might find this a problem.
I retired a few years ago after 35 years as an educator and still substitute teach three to five days a week. I feel I can speak for many teachers on this matter: For years, teachers have used a method called "peer tutoring" in and out of the classroom. From the information given, what that girl is doing sounds like textbook tutoring.
Personally, I feel it's far better to have help and see a word spelled correctly, a sentence constructed properly or a math problem worked correctly, than to have the mistake reinforced. In most cases, homework is just for practice, and "Rory" should have ample opportunity in class to show the teacher what he can do on his own. -- 35 YEARS AND COUNTING
DEAR COUNTING: Thank you for your input as an educator. I tried to reach the young woman who wrote that letter so I could ask if her boyfriend's test results had improved as a result of her efforts, but was unable to make contact.
Frankly, I was surprised at the amount of mail her letter generated from teachers, one of whom informed me that "most teachers don't check homework for accuracy, just that the homework was completed." Could this be part of what has gone wrong with our educational system -- that teachers have become so overwhelmed by the size of their classes that they can no longer give their students the individual attention they need? If so, how sad for all of us. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I used to teach at the university level. For 20 years I watched this happen. Never once was it the boyfriend "helping" the girlfriend. If we got two essays on the same topic, it was always the girlfriend who had written it, while the boyfriend who "studied with her" or "used it as a model" ended up handing in a distorted version of the same paper -- same quotes, same structure, reworded sentences. The boyfriends were slacking off; their girlfriends were doing the work.
I have talked about this with other professors; only one could cite a single exception to this rule. Thank you for telling that young woman to stop doing his homework and please, Abby, let your readers know the issue is systemic. -- EX-PROF. IN IDAHO
DEAR ABBY: There is a very fine line between good tutoring, poor tutoring and cheating. The best indicator is how the young man does on his exams. If he has significantly improved on his ability to do the problems in a test situation, then I lean toward the idea that good tutoring was done and suggest the students continue the process. If there has been no improvement, he should go to the teacher for extra help.
Math is an extremely difficult subject for many people. However, when a student gets F's on his tests and after coming to me gets A's and B's from then on, I suspect some learning has occurred. The teacher should review the tests the boyfriend takes and either tell the sister to go fly a kite or change methods -- depending on the scores. -- TUTOR IN RENO, NEV.
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