Saturday, April 21, 2012

On Tutoring Programs --- The Academic Disadvantage Part II

The Academic Advantage had one fundamental disadvantage: they were funded by federal dollars from No Child Left Behind.

I sat through two days’ worth of rules and regulations. The whole thing would have put most people to sleep. At the time, I was just so excited because I was learning so much at the time. I was finally realizing what had been the hang-ups in my life, how I was so busy trying to keep myself in line, but I am now a new creation in Christ, and therefore I do not have to spend any more time looking over my shoulder.

The instructor who was leading the training, Andrew, hailed from Boyle Heights area. He was immaculately dressed, but very nervous. After two hours of listening to him explain the rules and the possible consequences if any of the tutors tried to take any of the tutee and then teach them privately, we would be looking at a $6,000 civil fine.

He also told us that we were responsible for tutoring the assigned students as faced as possible. For every student, we were expected to complete twenty hours, then the student would get a laptop computer. If we did not finish the twenty hours by May 31, then would we have to pay for the remaining hours that we failed to tutor them for. I later found out that we would also pay for any hours that other staff failed to make up if we had to leave the program suddenly.

There were so many rules, and I was just learning about living in grace to the fullest. At the time, though, I was just glad to be going somewhere and doing something else besides what I had been going through for so long.

Each session was supposed to be four hours long, but the trainer was able to squeak us through after three. We sat through much of the obligatory stuff about being mandatory reporters.

We also spent a great deal of time practicing how to keep accurate records of the time that we would spend with students, as well as keeping track of the basic information, like their home school and other demographic information. I was appalled and surprised that the example used by the trainer focused on a made-up student from Miramonte Elementary school, the same middle school where two teachers were arrested for engaging in perverse behavior with students, a scandal which forced the superintendent to shuffle the entire staff out of the school for the rest of the academic year. The callous nature of permitting such a school to be posted without any due regard for what it would have meant to those of us training was a real shocker to me. Allowing Miramonte to serve as an arbitrary example appeared to me one more proof that all of these tutoring services are about money, money, money, and nothing more.

I went through the training, I received my new ID badge, and then I sat down with one of the counselors to receive a list of students to start teaching. I was supposed to receive six students, and I requested that they live near Torrance, or as close as possible. From the outset, the counselor told me that there only four students available. Already, I was concerned. They were supposed to have at least six. Then they suggested that I take on some students from the pen and paper program. I have been tutoring for so long, and I had no interest whatsoever in using paper and pencil when students have now gotten savvy with technology.

Besides, I wanted to have the laptop since I could prepare lessons more easily. Already the Academic Advantage was looking like a big disadvantage to me.

The next week, I received  a phone call from one of the staff members. They asked me if I would be interested in working for the next week to collect signatures for forms where the staff had neglected to do so. I said that I was willing, since I was happy just to get started working again.

When I showed up to start getting these signatures, I ended up waiting for an hour. I was busy reading up on some of the new things that I was learning, but I grew uneasy as time kept passing by. I was still waiting for one of the staff to come forward and call us in, but she told us that a sudden emergency had prevented the office from preparing us to gather signatures.

After some last minute changes, the two secretaries finally called us in. The office was a huge mess. Papers strewn about everywhere, and the two ladies were going as fast as they could to fetch out another set of contracts for us to sign, initial, and date. I could not believe how worked up the staff was about losing clients and tutors’ stealing their profits. One document after another, and the secretary kept sweating away. The hustle and bustle of the office was just too much. Once again, I found myself in a tutoring program, in a private educational industry that was overwhelming in its dysfunction. All of this chasing after money just disgusted me, and I had come to a point where I saw no reason to make myself sick with catching up with staff and later students who had no idea what was going on.

Right then and there, I put aside all the papers, told them how ridiculous it was to see so much commotion and compulsion, then left the office. Ten minutes later, I returned the laptop which they have given me, then I called the four students who had been assigned to me initially.

This was my last foray into working in education. I was willing to wash my hands of the whole mess once more, and never look back. Tutoring was never my bag, either. I just did not like leading kids through those inane lessons on basic math and English to prepare students for standardized tests that really do not mean anything.

I left and did not look back. Four months later, I found out that the tutoring program deducted eighty-eight dollars from my checking account! Presumably for the hours that were not covered after I left the program. The whole operation was a sham, from beginning to end, but I am not worried. I know that I will receive all that was taken from me, and more.
I had been picking up so much new information about myself, about who I am in Christ, about who He is, and who He is for me and through me in this world. I was so thrilled about everything that I was learning, that I did not have time to consider what I may have been losing financially. I do know that from that point on, I made the decision not to get involved in programs that were so chaotic and stressful. A man's peace is more important than a paycheck, besides.

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