Friday, December 12, 2014

Some Private Sector Misery

As part of my hiatus from teaching in the community colleges, I currently do private tutoring and also work at one of four Learning Centers that hate each other.  I never expected the hiatus to be without its share of misery.  Yet, it still sucks when it happens.  It wouldn't be misery otherwise.

About 10 weeks ago, when a parent came to us sobbing about their high school senior (whom I will refer to as "Sweetheart"), our director gladly welcomed with open arms the opportunity to turn this individual around.
You see, Sweetheart was getting an F in Algebra and hir graduation was being threatened.  To add even more mystery, mom explained that Sweetheart had been copying off the other students for answers and had been fibbing about hir performance.  On top of that, Sweetheart has been behind in math and just about everything else since about seventh grade.  Yet, it seems like mom is just learning about this now.

So, one of the Educational Coordinators met with me last night and casually brought up Sweetheart's situation.  Having utilized our expensive services for the past ten weeks, Sweetheart is still getting an F in Algebra.  We had the following conversation:

EC:  So, EMH, how did Sweetheart do tonight?

Me:  *sighing*  Well, just like I have been documenting in the communication logs regarding all the other sessions, he/she couldn't remember much of what we taught hir in the last session. He/she had no memory of what happened in class.  I'm not sure if this is a case of apathy, a learning disability, or if he/she just isn't going to class.

EC:  Yeah, well, I'm just trying to figure out how we can help hir to be successful.  I know you brought it up two weeks ago that maybe hir inability to remember what happened in class on that day may be a sign that he/she is not going to class.

Me:  Yes.  Have you been able to follow up with hir teacher about that?

EC:  No.  That kind of question may offend the teacher.

Me:  Well, we tell the parents that we regularly communicate with the teachers...

EC:  Yes, but some of the teachers get offended rather easily.  I need to meet with our Director to find out how I can word that question so as to not offend the teacher.

Me:  Well what CAN we do about this?

EC:  Well, we can place hir with a different tutor and see if he/she picks it up better.

Me:  She HAS been meeting with the other tutors.  I mean, they've been commenting about the same things in the communication logs...

Me:  *pausing* You know, there's a place where we end and he/she begins.  This may be a case of maintaining healthy boundaries, and that is an excellent way to care about a person without getting burned out.  *yes I DID just paraphrase a recent comment from one of our blog members*

EC:  Well, I guess if you have been making every effort to show different ways to do a problem and maybe even showing easier ways, then I guess you have been doing everything you are supposed to do.

EC:  *pausing*  You've been sending hir home with extra practice like we asked?

Me:  Yes, in fact he/she doesn't even do the extra practice until he/she meets with us again.  Last time, I gave hir a review assignment because he/she had that upcoming test.  I remember asking her if he/she would actually do some of the problems if I sent hir home with them.  He/she gave me this look.  *forming lemon-juice expression*

Me:  *pausing*  In fact, he/she didn't even do them let alone bring them back.  Said he/she "forgot" them at home.  Well that's okay, because I document the hell out of everything so I looked up the problem-set in the communication log and pulled out the book.  He/she did not get out of working on the problems at my table.

Me:  *pausing*  One of these days, he/she's going to ask her teacher if he/she's going to graduate and hir teacher if going to give that look.

EC:  Well, maybe we've done all we can.  I am getting ready to meet with the Director and mom to re-evaluate Sweetheart's program structure.  It's just a shame that all that work turns out to be ineffective,... especially after hir mom left that awesome review about us.

I must point out that I rarely have these experiences with my private clients.  So far, each of my clients have been able to raise their grades by about 1 or 2 marks.  That bullshit about being "too smart to teach" is exactly that.  Students know from the first session that I can only equip them for success and can only facilitate an environment where success is a possibility.  The actual attainment of that success is still THEIR responsibility.  One client approached me to thank me for getting him that A in precalculus.  I reminded him that ultimately he was the one to earn that A.  He was the one to put in that extra time.  I can only do so much.

Students who play games and otherwise fuck around with me are immediately disenrolled from my program.  There's no Dean or College President to complain to, as I am both.


  1. It sounds like Sweetheart might well be more in need of a learning-disability assessment, individual and/or family counseling, and/or a drug test than another tutoring session. But that, of course, is not what the Coordinator (or the parent) wants to hear.

    Hope you can continue to increase the amount of time you spend with private clients, EMH. That sounds like a much more satisfying experience (and, even if you occasionally "fire" your clients, I expect you'll have plenty of takers as your reputation for success with those who are willing to do their part builds).

  2. It sounds to me like Sweetheart could benefit from a hitch in the military.