June 2010

During the summer, a six-year-old student began attending tutoring. Cayes is a chatty child that struggles with reading. Even after completing kindergarten, he cannot identify letters with sounds or names with letters. In his case, he was left behind in the Texas education system. He is also a willfully obstinate child who refuses to work at times, pushing back from the table, crossing his little arms, cocking his head, and glaring at me. I choose one of several methods to work with him:

1) I give him options. “One, you can do your work and get tokens so you can get a cool prize or two, you can sit there,  not work, and loose a token for each minute you do not work.” I also give him the option of finishing this assignment then or finishing later in the hour.

2) I use the “I need you to (fill in any assignment or action).” This avoids imperatives and presents a need.

3) I ignore his constant questions or I give a quick nod and move onto the next thing.

My methods of teaching him sort of work. I am learning how to teach younger children and try to laugh at the moments I fail. But there was one particular day I had no response on what to do. As Cayes sat in front of me working on an independent practice, he began to sing to himself. Nothing is particularly shocking about young children singing while they work, but the tune caught my ear. It was a popular song I hear on the radio from an annoying entertainer named Ke$ha (yes there is a dollar sign in her name). I usually hear the first bit and change the station. This is completely my opinion, but songs like “Blah Blah Blah,” “Tik Tok,” or “Your Love is My Drug” are grammatically abysmal, musically inept, and lyrically irritating. As I said, my opinion. But little Cayes sat in front of me singing the chorus to “Your Love is My Drug” in perfect beat without missing a word.

“What you got boy is hard to find. I think about it all the time. I’m all strung out, my heart is fried. I just can’t get you off my mind. Because your love your love your love is my drug.”

He repeated it perfectly.

What do you do as a teacher with a child singing something like this? I asked him to work quietly and finish his assignment instead of going on a rant about comma usage and age appropriate music. Honestly, I do not mind if people enjoy Ke$ha and purchase her music, but I draw the line when a six-year-old is singing her lyrics. Please, save the children from poor spelling and bad music!


For the entire time I have worked as a tutor, I have taught an older, home-schooled student named Conakry. He was seventeen and a junior in high school when I met him and coming to our center for reading and writing. His manners were impeccable and he worked diligently, easily becoming a favorite among the teachers.

However, Conakry’s rigorous tutorial schedule encroached upon his social life. Apparently, his girlfriend of a year and a half was far more interesting than dangling participles, thesis sentences, and objective pronouns. Conakry attended roughly fifty percent of his scheduled times, sometimes coming twenty or thirty minutes late, leaving early, or coming for one hour and leaving for the second hour. One day, he attended his first hour, told me he had to change vehicles with his dad quickly and would return in ten minutes for his second hour. He never returned. Conakry became a bit of an amusement among the teachers. We would look at the schedules, raise an eyebrow and muse if Conakry would attend today. Normally a teacher from a corner of the room would pipe up that he was here yesterday, or he did not show up last night.

Interestingly enough, when students do not attend their scheduled hour, they are still charged for the hour. If a student or parent calls and reschedules the day of the appointed tutorial or even within fifteen minutes of the hour beginning, they do not lose their money and can easily reschedule a time. With private tutoring being a bit pricy, our musing intensified when Conakry did not show up, no call came, and hours upon hours of money were lost. We wondered, “Did his parents know of his absences?”

After six months of speculation, Ariana popped into the teaching floor during a break exclaiming, “Oh, I forgot to tell you! You will appreciate this!”

Won Ju and I looked up with expectant smiles.

“I had a parent conference with Conakry’s mom yesterday.” She said beaming. “As Mom talked, she mentioned that Conakry was there (waving her hand in the direction of the teaching room). Then stopped and asked if he was there.”

Ariana related, “I peaked out of my office, shrugged, and admitted that he was not there. Mom glared at me and retorted that he left the house that morning at 8:15 to come up here. I nodded and said, ‘Well, he is not here.’”

Laughing, Ariana continued saying Conakry grudgingly appeared at the center at 3pm that day. She questioned if she should have told Conakry’s mother he had cancelled all ten of his hours that week, but she thought he was in enough trouble and his parents might be more diligent about their son’s education from now on.

The mystery of Conakry’s absences was solved. Now the question remains if he will studiously attend his tutorials for the rest of the summer and finish out his program hours. We will see.

Random! One morning, a newer student found a particular ratio problem confusing. I scooted my big teacher chair around the edge of the table to look at the problem with her and she cocked her head and remarked, “You smell good! Do you wear perfume?”

As I raised an eyebrow I thanked her and mumbled, “Yes, I wear perfume, but it could be my deodorant.”

“Your deodorant?” She questioned

“Yes.” I answered.

Then she leaned over to smell my armpit. I moved back and rather bluntly commented, “That is kind of weird. Don’t do that.”

Perhaps I should have gracious thanked her and referred her to my perfume, Burberry Brit, or deodorant brand, Secret. I could even have more kindly asked her not to smell my armpit. But no, I called her weird. This was probably not the most encouraging this to say to a seventh grader, but adolescence is about normalization…right?

Mike and Sarah

Sarah and Mike are my housemates and close friends, so you will see numerous pictures with them and hear many more stories. On May 24th, Sarah and Mike celebrated their one year anniversary. Since the gift for year one is paper, Mike purchased Goo Goo Doll tickets for Sarah. However, Mike was in India on a Truett trip. Since Mike was out-of-town, Joell and I were Sarah’s hot anniversary dates for the Goo Goo Dolls concert. We put on our sparkly tops and headed down to Austin to enjoy a band that epitomizes our adolescence and early adulthood. We had a blast and here are the pictures to prove it!

As I ramble about my job and adventures teaching, I use completely random pseudonyms for students and co-workers. It is to protect their privacy and highlight the ridiculousness of my life and perspective. Their names are world cities, so you will need to put your geography cap on as you read. The world cities do not correspond to the person’s ethnicity or nationality. I picked the names solely because I liked them. If you are an avid cartophile, then you will have to respond with the country location!

Since beginning teaching at a private tutorial center, I have not had a stable table location. Teachers usually rotate around the room with no particular rhythm, but generally, I find myself in the center or on the left side alternating places with another reading and writing teacher. For several weeks though, my assigned table  was at the back of the teaching room. There is nothing too interesting or special about the location, except that I worked the table nearest the restrooms.

Our center has two unisex washrooms tucked in the water, paper, and file storage area. They are spacious and usually heavily floral scented, but clean and tidy. On occasion testers or students will leave the doors open and unpleasant odors drift into the room, but generally, nothing too exciting occurs. Several bathroom instances arose as of late that make me close my eyes, shake my head, and laugh. More amusing is looking up and another teacher is chucking as students visibly immerse themselves in their work. Some examples of restroom antics…

– Seoul’s wet paper towel ball tossing competition. This was a competition with himself on how many he could get into the wastepaper basket or the toilet. Our plumber loved us.
– Delphi washing her shirt, hair, face, in the sink with all of these occurring on separate days.
– Seoul singing in the restroom loud enough to hear at my seat. He does this every time he retires to the restroom. I am wondering if he takes requests.
– Lagos’ “accident” in the bathroom where he had to wait for his mom to bring an extra change of clothes. This is another story, but he is five and could not reach the light, so he sat in the dark crying until I grew worried about his absence and came and checked on him. This was not as funny as it was heartbreaking. Oh, precious little one.
– Karachi chattering to herself in the bathroom, loud enough for me to hear at my table. She never stops talking.
– Delphi taking off all her clothes and meandering between the two washrooms. I did not witness this, but have a trustworthy eyewitness account.
– Several of the younger students do not shut the restroom doors, so other students walk in on them, or we can hear the singing and talking more clearly.
– A student returned from the bathroom after a prolonged absence and informed me that she “tidied up a bit.” I suppose she cleaned the bathroom for us. I am afraid what else she could have meant.
– Then there are the bathroom escape artists who try to reduce their work time by using the bathroom four times in an hour, staying in there for twenty minutes, or using their bathroom time to text their girlfriends. If you take your phone to the bathroom, I know what you are doing!