the circular runner

life of an educator for hire…or Tina Turner and me

In life, observations, teaching & education on May 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

A tutor walks into a house–a very nice house that overlooks the San Francisco Bay–and he’s accosted by a middle-aged father who went to Harvard.  Said tutor also went to Harvard, which causes said father to want to have a little back-and-forth about the good old days in Cambridge, Mass. when he took a seminar on Medieval Catholic Theology.  He then goes on to tell the tutor, as an aside, that he outscored his daughter on a recent SAT exam–a result, no doubt of his days at the Big H. Why, the tutor wonders, is this father taking an SAT exam at the age of 50+?  Why, the tutor also wonders, is the father so keen on offering port wine and mixing it up on Aquinas when the tutor is there to help said daughter with Spanish?  These questions will plague the tutor forever–will plague me forever.

Yes,  I am the tutor in question, and since I must get the cheddah, the frijoles, the cash-money, this means that often I have to deal with families that are difficult and strange.

The paragraph above only begins to get at the strangeness that was my experience last night while tutoring.   Strangeness may not be the right word now that I think of it.  Grueling is more like it because after the father was done pumping his chest about his days at H…, the mother decides to camp out right behind me for the whole two-hour session.  I imagine she felt the need to sit in and not let her daughter answer my questions because she doesn’t know me, but I suspect there is also something deeper going on, like maybe this mother is just a little too involved in her daughter’s life.

All this would be tolerable if the daughter wasn’t also a pill.  In over fifteen years of teaching and tutoring, I’ve never had such an intransigent student, a person so arrogant that she was unwilling to try anything I asked her to.  She didn’t want to rework her paper.  She wanted to mince grammar rules instead of fix a giant hole in her conclusion.  And me, fool that I am, should’ve gone along for the ride.  But I felt pressure to try and teach, to try and improve the paper.  In my day job, I work with a lot of young people who have had problems with the law and are hardened by the experience, and I can tell you that even they are not as prickly as this student was.  I know I should just go with the flow.  I should’ve just catered to whatever this student wanted, but silly me.  Silly, stupid, sweating, exhausted me.

Dating myself, I’m reminded of a Tina Turner song from the 80s.  I don’t exactly remember all the lyrics, but I think it was called Private Dancer and it was about selling your body to the night, as another great 80s song put it.  Well, kiddies, last night, I was one crazy family’s Private [Tutor], a [Tutor] for money.  Come on, sing along…I`M YOUR PRIVATE [TUTOR], A [TUTOR] FOR MONEY, I’LL DO ANYTHING YOU WANT ME TO…etc. etc.

Tina would be proud!


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