the circular runner

diary of a wimpy teacher…

In humor, life, observations, teaching & education on February 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

A short story followed by a question (or three) for your Sunday non-Superbowl obsessed moments:

Because I am not obsessed about football and because I am poor, I am spending my Sunday tutoring the very wealthy children of Silicon Valley. My first session today was with the daughter of a man who I’ve been told is one of the richest men in the area. I believe this by the look of his Italian villa of a house. Stereotypes, being what they are, you might think that his offspring would be a spoiled brat. Well, stereotypes have their time, and this is one of them. The young heiress is not one to be pushed too far–that much was clear from today’s session.

To give you an idea, she has gone through four high schools in as many years and I am the 7th tutor she has gone through in the last year–lucky number 7.  My job has been to lead the princess–she uses the title in her email, btw–through an independent study of her freshman English class, a class that for some reason I never asked about she was unable to complete.

As a teacher, I generally think of myself as being able to walk the line between killing a student with rules  and holding to some semblance of academic standards. I think some educators are just sticklers for the sake of sticklerness, but on the other hand, there are too many burn-out teachers who don’t care and who let their students do anything they want.

Well, Houston, I think we have a problem, and the problem is that I am crossing over. Today, as I was helping my student make her essay stronger, she kind of flipped out. The princess is moody, I knew that much already. But one moment, I’m asking her if she could make her argument better by adding a quote, and the next moment, she’s raising her voice and telling me that she’s getting frustrated and that I’m the cause.

Nothing new. I get a lot of young people getting frustrated–it’s called learning something hard.  As a result, I have learned not to be thrown by the anger coming my way.  I lower my voice and gently but firmly point out that I am on the same team and I want to help. I appreciate that learning is hard at times, and we’re all human and humans can’t always be learning machines. I get that. But I also stand my ground and let the student know that she needs to breathe and not get all aggro at the people trying to help–i.e., me.

Today, however, I couldn’t be bothered. Yes, I felt it. I felt myself crossing into the Lands of the Lost and Unconcerned.  The princess wanted to yell and didn’t want to make her essay better, and I was like, “OK, fine. Good enough.”

Good enough? Really? These are the words of apathy. These are the words of that English teacher who is a lifer and is waiting for retirement and/or death.

So here is your test, dear reader.  Don’t worry, it’s a multiple-choice exam:

Am I

A.  A wimpy teacher?

B.  Getting tired and should I hang up the chalk?

C.  Being all Yoda-like, conserving energy, stressing not? (btw, Was Yoda a wimp?  )

Your answers will be graded on a curve.

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  1. C, of course. You have to pick your battles. If you have a cup of water, are you going to give it to the orchid? Wouldn’t it be better to water the tomato? No, wait– if you only have one cup of water, then you have to drink some, too, right? Is it like in the airplane when they tell you that if there’s a loss of cabin pressure and those things drop down, you should put yours on first before you help your kid? What the hell am I talking about?
    I taught English at Berkeley High School for ten years and I burnt out, so you shouldn’t ask me what I think. I didn’t burn out and stop caring, I just cared too much and then, one day, I knew with irrational, paranoid, unswerving certainty that if I didn’t quit my job, I was going to get cancer. So if you do whatever you have do to last for the long run and take care of yourself and you’ll be making the right decision.

  2. whew, thank goodness I’m not the first to comment… I would have been but I clicked back to read your last post first. Which was good. Now knowing your Libraness, I certainly think you made a wise choice. After all, what good would come from pushing her? I have a teacher soul, but I don’t know how good I’d be, because I always think if the student isn’t ready to learn, forcing them is not the answer, in fact, it’s an anti-answer. I hope you didn’t/don’t lose any sleep over a spoiled girl’s shenanigans!!! And, maybe, just maybe, she’ll be so surprised at your behaviour, it’ll make her think about it and try something different in her next essay!!!
    🙂

  3. C. Save your energy. I wouldn’t say it’s apathy if you have strong feelings about what occurred.
    I think “Was Yoda a Wimp?” would make an interesting post.

  4. […] this dude on NPR who bugs me…help! « Previous / Next » By the circular runner / February 7, 2012 / humor, life, media, observations, […]

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