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Written on being asked to help a group study for Linguistics 420

This summer I'm taking a linguistics class taught by the chair of the department. It is not an easy class. I'm learning a lot. A group asked me to help them out this weekend. On first being asked, I thought I couldn't help, it is just a matter of taking the time to read... A while later, since I'm planning to be a teacher of some kind, I said I'd meet with them. After thinking about it rather too much last night, I decided on what I've written about below.

Added by colin #442 on 2005-06-30. Last modified 2008-03-05 08:58. Originally created 2005-06-30. F0 License: Attribution
Location: World, United States, California, San Diego, SDSU
Topics: employment, personal, Vision
: graduate school, learning, women

Neeru, Patty, Tahnee,

I told Patty in class that I didn't want to meet as planned on Saturday at 1pm, and that I'd email you by 2pm today about an alternative plan, and about studying for this class.

I will meet with you for up to two hours if you (and any others who join your group) pay me $30/hr cash at the beginning of each of the hours you want me there.

[clarification: (a response to an email from Tahnee) Oh, maybe I wasn't clear-- I guess in fact it is not-- $30/hour regardless of how many are in the group...

I'm generally wary of doing things for money though (even though I need it), unless they are things I would want to do for free!

I think some people benefit from studying in groups, but I know that isn't me...]

I'm doing this: to make me glad to be there, and to encourage you to make the best use of our time.

If you do want to do this, send me an email by 5pm the day before, telling me where and when you want to meet, Sat, Sun, or Mon.

In that email also tell me how you want me to prepare to help you, or give me questions to answer.

If you want me to, I could also set up an email discussion group for this class (on yahoo) so that you could email whoever decides to subscribe to that list and ask them questions, not just for this exam, but for the final. (for that to happen, email me a list of all the email addresses-- I don't want to type them in-- you could get it, via email, from Prof. Kaplan).


Also, I am happy to meet as friends to talk about things like the 'meaning of life' or whatever, just not linguistics, on The benches or the lawn up the hill from Scripps cottage. Let me know if you want to do that.

My main point(s) in all of this is:

(1) Studying is best done on one's own, not in groups. In the end, you'll be taking the tests alone.

(2) It takes a lot of time. At CalPoly they advertise something like "3 hours study time for each hour of class" to try to keep students from overloading their schedule.

(3) You need to have a vision of how working on this class fits into your greater vision for your life in order to be able to concentrate on studying for it.

(4) Studying is a habit that takes practice (and to be honest, I could be much better at it).

Number 3 is really about "your experience of meaning in life." And I say a bit more about that sort of thing at http://purl.oclc.org/net/j9k/ and the things I link to from there. Http://purl.oclc.org/net/cfu/s/Vision, http://purl.oclc.org/net/cfu/s/spirit

I guess I'll add (5): Don't take the professor or the class or the material too seriously. All of them could  be wrong or misleading you, and in fact all of them will always be imperfect.

If we know what our own goal is for the class, or for school in general, we can work with both the bad and the good to accomplish what we want.

One reason I'm taking the class, for example, is simply to be around other people. I also really want to try to make some sense of what language is.

I don't think Kaplan's book does the best job explaining things, so I look around at other sources on the internet and elsewhere to help me resolve questions. (as another example).

Ok. If I write more I doubt it will be read. But, I just read something about leadership yesterday that said, we all lead by being the way we want others to be, and also in creating the conditions for others to learn, indirectly (without the help of the leader). That is what I'm trying to do here.

To be explicit, by this email and my decisions, I want you (and me) to learn:

(1) To say "no" when that is better for us.

(2) To value/protect our time--to save it for the things most important to us.

(3) To have a vision for what we are doing. To know what is most important to us and make sure our actions lead us to that.

I use tutors in the following cases:

(1) They know the language I'm studying (Spanish) much better than I do, and can easily recognize my composition/speaking errors.

(2) They are much more experienced solving the problem (physics, math, engineering) I'm working on and can quickly and easily show me my mistakes and help me correct them.

Here's a final story.

The best "tutor" I ever had was my college girlfriend, a straight-A honors student at UW, Seattle, in Biochemistry.

Before I knew her, I would just do what I had to do to get B+s or Low As.

She and her friends, however, had to get 4.0s and 100s on every exam because of the goal they had.

Following her example I took the time--hours--on my own to study for a physical chemistry class. I practiced every possible problem the teacher would give.

After the exam, the professor said, "It was really quite remarkable, every curve ball I threw, you caught."

Now I did not have the vision to maintain that kind of studying--at least for chemistry....

My old girlfriend, she got into the MD-PhD program at Harvard. Her roomate did the same at UCSD. (They're both still working on it... In MD-PhD programs, all your med school and grad school is fully funded, I think).

So, that's it.

I do think I could help you with ling420 if you'd like. I need money to want to do that, because there are many other good and important things I have to work on--including spending the hours required to study the book myself!!

And, like I said, if you just want to hang out on that lawn and talk visions and meaning sometime (it doesn't have to be anytime soon),--or just play in some way--, because I've gotten so little of that for a while, there is nothing I'd rather do. And to be explicit again, though I might cause myself to miss a great opportunity, in that little vision of mine, I'm addressing the women around my age or younger who don't have children!

Email me by 5pm the day before if you want to pay me $30/hr to work with you (or a group) the following day. Be clear with me what you want me to do. If you want to set something up for Sunday or Monday, it would be best to call me too, by 5pm the day before in case I'm not checking email that day. Leave a message on the machine or with my grandma if I'm not there.


You can send this on to whoever you want. It is on the web at:

Colin Leath <>    

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