The Pondering Grapefruit
a blog of moments and musings
Recently I've begun teaching as a private tutor. I teach middle school and high school students math, science, writing, and ACT/SAT prep. I never thought of myself as a teacher before, but tutoring has helped me connect with a part of me I didn't know existed before, the educator. A surprising part of tutoring is that I get a glimpse of each family's life. Each family is so different yet so similar. The connecting thread is love--parents want their kids to succeed. Yet each home is different. Some front doors have doorbells on the right, others in the left, some none at all. Some families are insanely rich, with gated neighborhoods, and others not so much. The family dynamics are different too. Some kids are over-managed, while others are more independent. The communication style of each house varies too. Some families have great communication, others not so much. I feel almost like an intruder in the home setting sometimes, seeing so much, but I try to just focus on the teaching.
About two weeks ago I began teaching this very bright young girl ACT math. I noticed that she understood math very well and could make calculations very fast. However she struggled with word problems. Every time, she would immediately pick up her pencil and begin solving the problem as she read through it, jotting numbers down, writing out expressions, graphing the points. However, she would end up misunderstanding the problem or writing down the wrong information. She also didn't come up with the right method. To help her, I told her to not pick the pencil up until she had fully understood the problem.
"The method to get the answer is always really simple," I said, "especially on the ACT." Usually, even the most seemingly complicated questions had just one or two steps to solve it. The difficult part was just sifting through the information and arranging it into a storyline. This is a slope problem. This is a graphing problem. Because she rushed into answering the question, she either overcomplicated it or misunderstood what she needed to do. When she did slow down, the solutions became much clearer.
I've been thinking a lot lately of how this simple lesson--of not answering the question until the question has been fully understood--applies to my life, and probably everyone's life. I am going through a phase now where I, too, have to answer a lot of questions. I have to make decisions, lots of them. For the past couple of weeks I have just been scrambling, similar to what my student did. I would spend hours on end researching on the internet, making plans, deciding what I needed to do. But these sessions were never productive. They just wore me out, made me more stressed, and left me more confused at the end of the question. I found a million solutions, but none of them actually fixed the problem.
I realize that I need to learn the very lesson that I teach--to slow down and meditate first before acting. I have just been rejected from all the medical schools I applied to this year. And when I first received that news, I panicked and tried to find an immediate remedy. But I'm sensing more and more that I have not understood the problem. The problem is much more than getting rejected medical school. The real question is a big more nuanced: Why do I want to study medicine? What are my motivations? Are they valid? Am I in a good place right now? Why did I not make it in this time? What does my heart want? What are my priorities in life? Do I need a break?
Until I fully understand what the problem is, I may find a million possible solutions, but they will be incorrect. I've decided that I'm going to stop acting for now, stop planning, stop rushing, and spend some time meditating. When the sediment has finally settled, I trust that a simple, elegant solution will appear, and I will reach the correct answer.
About this Blog
I have no idea how to describe what my writing is about. I just write. I post when I can, which can be weekly or monthly depending on where the universe is taking me. As for the Grapefruit, my Vietnamese nickname, Buoi, means grapefruit.