Student Information

Here’s some information for students, particularly asynchronous tutoring students. See also Tutoring Category Rules and there’s a topic for talking with other students.

Communicate Problems

I can’t give you perfect assignments. If you don’t know how to do an assignment, or get stuck you need to tell me. If you can explain what the problem is, that’s great and useful, but it’s not necessary. Even if I don’t know what’s wrong, I can give you an easier assignment instead. If I do know what’s wrong, then I might explain more instead of switching assignments.

You shouldn’t feel bad (including bored, disinterested, unmotivated, frustrated, upset, stressed, anxious or stupid) while doing assignments. That is a sign something is going wrong. And I won’t know unless you tell me. For most assignments, you shouldn’t really feel confused either. And most assignments aren’t meant to feel hard.

Some assignments will be too hard. You can do them and make errors or you can also stop and say it’s too hard. If an assignment is too hard, that gives us useful information about what prerequisites to work on first.

Problems are inevitable. They don’t mean that either of us did anything wrong. You just need to communicate the problem to me. Even just saying “Doing this assignment isn’t working for me.” is will work OK, but silence won’t work.

Also, basically the only way to fail is not doing the assignments. If you do them (or communicate that there’s a problem), you’re doing it right. It’s fine to make mistakes or for your work to not be very good. You’re just practicing, and if something is beyond your current abilities that’s good to find out so I can give you assignments that will help build up to it. If we just keep at it, I’ll figure out some assignments that you do well at, and we’ll build from there.

If you’re not doing an assignment, or avoiding it or procrastinating, that’s also a problem to share. You may need a different assignment.

In general, you’re welcome to talk a lot. It’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

Time Ranges

Many assignments will have a time range. Example:

5-10m brainstorm ways to avoid staying up past your bedtime

You need to use a timer for this. If you feel done but you’re below 5 minutes, keep trying. If you reach 10 minutes, stop; you did enough. Don’t go below or above the range. Stopping early means you didn’t try enough, while stopping late means you’re trying too hard and at risk of perfectionism.

Being off by a minute is no big deal but it’s important not to ignore time ranges. I really don’t want you spending an hour on a 5-10m assignment. If you can’t do it well in 10m, that’s OK, and I need to know that so we can work on developing the skills to do better, faster.

Don’t aim for the middle of a time range. Any time within the range is fine.

Even if there’s no time range, try to tell me quickly if an assignment isn’t working or is taking a long time. Don’t keep bashing your head into the (metaphorical) wall.

Scheduling Philosophy

For most people, it’s good to put some philosophy time on your schedule. You can do extra when you want to, but scheduling will help you stay consistent about a minimum amount of philosophy time. It’s also helpful to have a consistent sleep schedule, a reasonable diet, and other good life stuff.

Philosophy takes mental energy, so it’s good to schedule working on it at a time of day when you’re usually not tired. It’s also nice to schedule philosophy before some flexible time so you can keep going longer on days when you want to.

I recommend working on philosophy every day, but not strictly. It’s fine to skip a day now and then if you’re busy all day, exhausted, or just don’t feel like it. Please don’t get stressed about keeping a perfect streak going (like some apps encourage).

It’s better to do 15 minutes every day than 3 hours once a week, even though the 3 hours is more time. But it’s even better to do at least 15 minutes every day, and sometimes do an hour or more.

Don’t do long philosophy sessions without breaks. Try a 5 minute break after 30 minutes and a 15 minute break after an hour. Use an alarm so you don’t forget to take a break. If you’re in the middle of something, it’s OK to go a few minutes longer to quickly get to a better stopping point.

Doing at least 5 hours per week is important so that you keep making progress consistently and philosophy is part of your life. 10 hours per week allows faster progress, but it’s OK if you’re too busy or need to work up to it. Don’t do so much it’s unsustainable and you burn out. I don’t want you to do 20 hours per week if you can only keep it up for a few weeks; going slow and steady is better.

For some people, it works well to schedule one short session per day and do more when you have spare time. Other people need to schedule most of their philosophy time or it probably won’t happen.

It’s fine to do some short sessions on your phone, but don’t try to rely on that as your main way of doing philosophy.

Recording Data and Sharing Work

Record data about what you do. You can use a notes file, spreadsheet, app, or whatever you prefer. Include the date, time spent, activity, and other relevant information such as word count. It can be good to rate activities by how hard you found them, how well you think you did, and/or how much you enjoyed them.

You’ll need to share some of your work with me, but not all of it. Share work when you want me to see it, want feedback on it, or just because you feel comfortable sharing it. It’s fine to share a lot, but you can keep some things private when you aren’t comfortable sharing them. When you do an assignment but don’t share your work, you still need to give me some information, such as telling me that you completed it successfully (or not), letting me know if you found it hard or easy, and providing me with some summary data like time spent and word count.

Multiple Assignments

You will need to keep track of multiple assignments at once. You should have a notes file, todo list, or other record keeping method for all your active assignments.

Why multiple assignments? Because there are things you need to practice over time, but that shouldn’t prevent you from working on something else too. For example, I might have you practice touch typing regularly, but we can still work on something else too, not focus all your attention on typing.

I prefer to give one new assignment at a time to keep things simpler and avoid overwhelming you. But once you’ve worked on something successfully, I might have you keep working on it more while also introducing something new.

If you want to do more work but don’t have a new assignment yet, you can use past assignments: repeat a type of activity you’ve done before for more practice.


During philosophy sessions, avoid distractions, interruptions, or multitasking. It’s fine to have some short sessions on your phone where you may be interrupted, but you should also have some other sessions where you’re unlikely to be interrupted.

Stay off social media during philosophy sessions and during mid-session breaks. Don’t have a video playing in the background. Don’t text with your friend. Music is OK if it’s not too loud or distracting.

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