True Life: I Was an LSAT Instructor
- Jul 31, 2015
- LSAT, Odds and Ends
This post is dedicated to the man behind the curtain, so to speak. If you’re studying for the LSAT, you might be curious about what it’s like to actually teach the test. I’ll be giving you my insights on becoming a Yoda… or Mr. Miyagi… or… Rafiki of the LSAT world (if you don’t understand any of those references, you need to watch more movies). I’ll also briefly discuss the benefits and downsides of teaching a class.
First things first: To become an LSAT tutor, you need to perform well on the LSAT (Captain Obvious here, saying “you’re welcome, everyone!”). A solid score on the LSAT is a good marker of your ability to understand the concepts. With that said, scoring a 180 – that’s a perfect score, just so we’re clear – doesn’t mean that you’ll get hired as an instructor; you also need to show that you can actually instruct effectively. Ideally, instructors can communicate clearly and succinctly and present the material with humor and charisma.
Moreover, instructors should be able to empathize with their students. During the last few weeks of class, after all the new material has been presented, the instructor isn’t doing nearly as much instructing – he or she assigns practice questions, sits back for a few minutes, and then reviews the answers with the class. By that point, students should have a comprehension of the methods for answering all question types on the LSAT, and errors usually come about as a result of misapplication rather than miscomprehension of those methods. While the actual instruction part becomes easier, this part of the course raises a new challenge: Most students become more and more anxious and stressed as the actual test approaches. As a result, the instructor must often serve as a therapist or cheerleader to assuage students’ concerns or encourage them. Consequently, it is important that instructors understand how to relate to and empathize with their students’ concerns.
Beyond this abstract advice, I’ll give you a brief overview of Blueprint LSAT Prep’s method for selecting instructors. When I applied, Blueprint asked for a video of me teaching two LSAT questions. The hiring committee reviewed my video, along with a copy of my resume, LSAT score report, and cover letter, and then invited me to a training session.
At the training session, we listened to lectures on effective teaching techniques before splitting up into two groups and taking turns presenting questions to the other potential instructors and to senior Blueprint staff. We received feedback after every question. The hiring committee used their observations to select applicants for teaching or tutoring positions. The training process feels a lot like an extended audition – it is stressful at times and it can feel like trial by fire – but I found it extremely helpful, especially when I actually started teaching. After I was finally selected to teach a class, I worked one-on-one with a mentor to prepare for the challenges of each lesson.
Speaking of challenges, I’m going to cover a few downsides of teaching for the LSAT. First of all, teaching for four hours straight is pretty tough. Maintaining your energy and keeping your students engaged for the entire period of time can be a challenge. Second, there’s no one to save you if you make a mistake. In one of my first classes ever, I lost my train of thought on a logic game. It was maybe the worst couple minutes of my life. I had a class full of students, whose respect I hadn’t earned yet, looking at me expectantly while I fumbled to recover my place. Finally, you will have to deal with challenging students. I don’t want to say too much about this because it is a pretty rare occurrence. But there will be students who are either disruptive or who create a negative atmosphere in some other way. This is true of any teaching job, and it is just something to be aware of if you’re considering applying for an instructor position.
With the downsides out of the way, let’s talk about the benefits of teaching. First, the hours and pay are excellent. The hours vary across different companies, but in general, you teach a few times per week for a few hours each time. Obviously, the first time you teach the class, you’ll need to do a lot of outside prep work. But after that, you’ll need to spend less time prepping every time you teach. I absolutely loved the time I spent teaching because I had so much free time outside of class. Second, getting to know and interact with a diverse group of driven, intelligent students is a fantastic experience. I still keep in touch with some of my students, and I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know them. Finally, helping someone succeed is tremendously fulfilling. At one of my lowest points during my first year at law school, I got a text from a former student telling me she had gotten into her dream law school. I was thrilled for her, and it meant a lot to me to feel like I had contributed to her success in some small way.
If I had the time and opportunity to teach again in the future, I would do so in a heartbeat. I really liked everyone at Blueprint and I enjoyed my experiences in the classroom. I would highly recommend the position to anyone.
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