Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tutoring - The Two Agencies

I tried the tutoring thing for as long as I could stand it. Most of the homes that I went to were families living below the poverty line. In one apartment complex near Lawndale, the stench of waste and trash was so pervasive, flies filled the air on the outside, and the Mariachi music that I had to contend with from the drunken neighbors upstairs competed with any real teaching that I tried to complete.

Some of the homes that I visited in the Hawthorne area were better kept, to be sure, but for the most part tutoring was a forced march in many ways. I did not like preparing lessons in advance, and much of the time I walked into the session just going with whatever paperwork, lessons, and other simply pacing plans that the supervisors had given me.

Looking back on the whole affair, I admit candidly and without reserve that I hated tutoring. It was not an engaging and enriching profession. You can make money as a tutor if you run the company yourself, but the amount of time and money that goes into the whole enterprise makes the investment time-consuming at best, and demeaning and depleting at worst. As  for the runts in the field like me, who would drive from one home to the next, the work was slow and steady, with no hope for advancement. Teaching and tutoring are for the strong at heart who believe that they are making a difference in the life of youth. To the best of my knowledge, these kids needed more than a tutor twice a week. They needed a stable home, a real family, and in many cases a sense of direction.

Still, all things do work for good, and I believe that I made a differnence in the life of many young people. The best impact that a teacher makes -- he does not know about until many years later, when the kid he was tutoring goes on to become a CEO in a company or Supreme Court Justice. Who knows where they end up, but at least I can look forward to the limited option of boasting -- "I tutored that kid when he was still in the ghetto!"

I worked for two tutoring agencies. One was based on the hill in Rancho Palos Verdes,  ETS Tutoring, where I was assigned to work with Title I students -- kids getting a free lunch because they lived in a low-income home. The other company, Tutor Doctor of the South Bay, was a franchise corporation, more upscale and better pay. I worked with higher incomes families, and I worked in better conditions. Of course, some of the parents were high maintenance as all get out. Still, the kids were overachievers who were more prepared for what I needed them to do from session to session.

I liked taking assignments with the second company, although the first one offered me more work.

I needed the money, and if I could not make it as a full-time teacher, then why not work with students one-on-one in their homes, hired on an hourly basis by the parents who wanted their kids to do better?

The different dramas that I stepped into suggested more problems were going on in many households than students who were not excelling in different subjects.

The one family that I enjoyed the most -- the S. family in South Torrance -- provided snacks and resources for me, but I have to admit that on many days I was in two places at once.

I was a nervous wreck in those days, not knowing how to go in and how to go out. I had struggled to the point of despair in my last full-time assignment, quitting shortly after the first semester, and still trying to psych myself into believing that I was supposed to be a teacher.

In the interim, I made the most of my "teaching skills" and got busy preparing lessons for the French student whom I tutored with nearly reliable regularity for two years.

I am grateful to that family, to that home. It was the one place that I looked forward to in the midst of the all the times and trails that I was trying to get through.

Honestly, I do not think that I would have come to end of myself without the tutoring that I accomplished, without the learning that these students were willing to receive. The student in South Torrance was the one kid who gave me the most respect, and the one time in the week when I felt that I was doing something worthwhile. I also tutored another young lady in South Torrance, a sixth grader from Richardson Middle School. She was a lively person, and her mother was an accomplished linguist who spoke French and Arabic! A very eclectic family, and the young lady whom I tutored -- she spoke French with real panache, sometimes with a better accent than mine! I was really impressed, although I could tell from time to time that the young girl wanted to be doing something else.

So many things took place in those days. Tutoring was not the easiest thing for me to do, for the most part because I was still so attached to trying to hold on tight to doing everything myself instead of living the '"Let Go" Life which awaits everyone who walks by faith.

Tutoring was a necessary step in the right, and the righteous, direction. I look back from the mountain of today, and those valleys yield more light than darkness and despair.

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