Friday, May 20, 2011

Your Unofficial Guide To Home Tutoring (3)

{1}, {2}

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I thought of this as I was watching CSI. You see, in order to overcome the smell of rotting flesh and corruption, forensics investigators, detectives and coroners will apply a strip of vapor-rub under their noses.

Now, why would YOU need it, you ask? Start with the kitchen. Dishes are done once a month or so, all food remains left on the plates. the refrigerator door opens and closes by itself as the appliance gasps weekly for air and to out gas whatever science project have been growing in there in perpetuity. The most common kitchen counter decoration is one or more partially full outdated milk cartons or jugs that never get thrown away. Thrown away? HAH! The kitchen IS the dump, with weeks, months worth of bags piled against the back door, blocking the exit in the event of a fire or emergency. The garbage bags sit there mocking you, confident that you would rather have the flesh roasted off your bones in a fire than move, nay, even touch, one of them. In warm weather, the garbage is an etymologist's DREAM, with multi-legged creatures of 17 orders appearing momentarily and diving back in, happily fulfilling their multi-generational purpose as detritivores, and recycling every scrap left behind.

Next, the dining/living area. Every seat and surface will be covered with piles of laundry. The clean laundry is presumable the folded stuff. That will fill one corner table or the arm of the couch, with a mangy cat sleeping on it. The rest of it, believe me, will be the dirty laundry. On every horizontal surface, thrown in corners, you name it. You will recognize the dirty laundry by its smell, which fills many of the niches in the house unoccupied by the odors from the kitchen. They seem to save doing the laundry for winter, when the un-vented dryer acts as a supplemental heat source and humidifier for those dry winter days.

Your student, when it appears, will be fresh out of bed, regardless of the time of day. Well, fresh isn't the word, I should have said 'just' or 'right out of''. Night funk, eye boogers, a crust of dried drool on their face, hair uncombed (since, no matter where you look in the house, you can never find a potato rake), barefoot after what looks like a run through Great Bear Swamp, enough dirt under their nails to grow tomatoes. And as they sit at the table, the first thing they will do is give you a big yawn...and as they exhale...

I have spent my life working with wild animals of every description. I have been defecated on by over 10,000 species, low estimate. I have been sprayed by big cats showing their disdain and superiority to me, been a fecal target of over 70 species of vile primates, done necropsies with a sandwich in one hand, a scalpel in the other. I helped a local mortician, in a cloud of thumbnail sized fuzzy black flies, carry out the remains of an elderly woman who had been at least two weeks dead during a July hot spell because the fire/rescue people with Scott Airpacks were vomiting in their masks and fleeing the house. The maggot weighed more than her remains. Bill and I were smiling as we carried her out, making fun of the cops and fire/rescue people 50 feet away on the sidewalk. Nothing bothers me.

The breath of these guys will make even MY stomach churn. I really don't think any odor in my life had made me nauseous until I started tutoring.

And the breath isn't the worst of it. The treat bathing like it was a perverted act and they were pillars of virtue. The B/O, bathroom odors are unbearable. There are the loud belches they enjoy soooo much, smiling like a child at Christmas afterward, and lets not forget how much fun farting is.

This past week, sitting at the table with one of my students, I heard a grumbling noise that I attributed to the heard of whiny dogs that are always muttering under their breaths as they lay under the table. After five, six repetitions, it hit me--like a baseball bat. He sat there for an hour and a half, farting constantly, the most foul gas I had ever encountered. I was so sick after I left, I was literally woozy and exhausted (pardon the pun) from breathing the fumes. I ran out of Vicks on the wrong day.

Then there's the pets. All of those people are 'animal lovers'. The moms will often say they love their dogs (and/or cats) as much as their kids. This will be very evident in the neglect you can see bestowed upon the animals. They will be mangy, underfed or obese beyond belief (matching the kids), covered in fleas, ear mites, matted tangled fur, and usually infested with a wife variety of intestinal parasites. The litter boxes get cleaned as often as the dishes. You could clean windows with the ammonia fumes emanating from the box. Everywhere you step you will hear kitty litter crunching underfoot. The female dogs will pee all over the house, the males on any vertical surface including your leg. Often, surprise dried feces pop up out of nowhere on the floor, perhaps dragged there by one of the vocal but invisible rodent infesting the premises, memories of a hidden bowel movement of days or weeks past. All of these unclean animals will adopt you as their new best friend, rubbing against you, drooling all over you, breathing on you, hopping on the table, chairs, your lap...the dogs and cats as well carry their own varieties of belches, farts and infected sores that drain and ooze wherever they touch.


>(c) 2011 by Dean Davis of Living World Ecology Center. Used with permission granted by Dean Davis

Friday, May 13, 2011

Your Unofficial Guide To Home Tutoring (2)


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For All

You will need the full list of school supplies the kids get at the beginning of the year. There will not be a single item in the student's home.

Pens and pencils: Buy the cheapest, in bulk. Dispose of daily after each student. They will chew them, suck them, stick them in their noses, ears, clean eyebooger out of their eyes with them, one of my students is fond of brushing his teeth with the eraser. An alternative is to have a plastic ziplock bag of them for each student. I have found that the problem with that is they are usually damp from the student's mouths or {{{shudder}}} whatever orifice they've been in, and tend to mildew in the car in warm weather, and the erasers never dry out. The next day a horrible odor erupts when you open the bag, and, believe it or not, I've worried that it might be a health hazard to the students. More likely, exposing the poor fungi and decay bacteria to the student would be an act of cruelty that PETA would come to protest. Someone from the SPCA would be talking to the news cameras stating: "It's the worse case of abuse we've ever seen...."

Have LOTS of paper. Big spiral notebook for each student. They like to draw while thinking or while you talk to them and instruct them, pages a day. Also, they are very finicky, and if they make a mark on a paper, or a mistake, they'll just rip the paper out and crumple it up and toss it across the room. They may rub snot off their finger on the paper, or various foods and beverages they insist on consuming while working, but this will never bother them. That paper will be handed in. It might be nice to bring a garbage bag once a month or so to pick up those discarded paper-believe me, no one in the house will do it.

ABSOLUTE essential! Plastic placemats. I tried a vinyl tablecloth, but you'd have to have one for each student, and wash it each day because of the fuzzy backing. Plus, you would have to empty the table. There will be books (presumably to keep the table from wobbling, the only reason I can think of for their presence), several nights' worth of dishes and pots and pans, twenty or thirty narcotic prescription bottles, a stack of unpaid bills and threats from collection agencies, toys, one or two pet dishes (the cats are fed on the dining room table because the dogs would eat all their food on the floor), tools and at least six items you won't be able to even guess the identity of. (What is that? An old butternut? A dried fig or prune? A cat turd?) With unidentifiable items, do not touch with your hands, use one of the student's pencils to move them.

The table you work at will be sticky. There may be flies actually stuck to it, struggling and still buzzing their wings, like those curly fly strips you used to see hanging in railroad car diners. Often the student will smash one with his hand, rub it off on his clothing, and pick his nose or teeth with the same hand. There may be food leftovers from the night before on the table, certainly beer, Blackhause, Rumplemintz, Schnapps, soda and juice. I tutored one student in a cold apartment where leftover roast remains sat on a platter on the table we worked at for three days, along with a bowl of creamed corn, and a dish full of cheetos. Three food groups, easy pickin's for when you needed a snack. Actually, by the third day, with the fly larvae in the creamed corn and meat, it would be four food groups. Two days ago, I sat at a table where there was a path of white and grey mildew the size of a pie plate growing on the table. Wait! As it turned out later on, I remembered that's where the cat often likes to lay as we work, one leg straight up in the air as it groom it's rectum for an hour at a time, probably the only food it gets each day, while I watch fleas dancing and playing soccer in it's white patches. Cat fur, not mildew! Now I feel better! I was grossed out when I thought it was mildew...

So, back to the plastic placemats. ESSENTIAL. I tired newspaper, but got bitched out by a mom because shreds of it would remain super glued to the table after I left. Other Moms hadn't even noticed. "Why didn't you just get a wet rag from the kitchen and clean the table before you started?" Well, actually, ma'am, it was because I went into the kitchen, saw the wet rag on the counter, and I couldn't find a stick to beat it into submission and pick it up with. It was right there, too, sandwiched between last week's dirty dishes and this week's leftovers, though it skittered behind some pans when I entered, and made snarly noises of rage.

Right. Placemats. One for the student, one for you, one for any of your supplies and books you will be using. I place a tab of duct tape folder over on one corner to peel them off the table with. None of your student will be offended by this, they seem to marvel at your ingenuity. Many have had personal items stuck to the table for weeks trying to figure out how to get them off. They will even tell their parents about it, who will be similarly fascinated. Also, use a permanent marker to make an X on the backside of the mat if both sides have a matching pattern. More on this later.

ANOTHER essential. LONG SLEEVES. I don't care if it's ninety-five degrees you do NOT want your bare arms touching the table surface, chair arms, etc. As a matter of fact, I no longer shower and get out fresh clothes when I home tutor. I do a quick sink wash in the morning, put on some old rags, and head off. I shower AFTER I come home, steaming hot water, lava soap, crying, as I scrub my skin raw over and over again, whimpering softly...

(c) 2011 by Dean Davis of Living World Ecology Center. Reprinted with permission given by Dean Davis.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Your Unofficial Guide To Home Tutoring (1)

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Welcome to the exciting wold of Home Tutoring. Even if you've already tutored, some of these helpful hints may come in handy. I'm sure others will be no surprise.

If you're a teacher, a retired teacher, or a young student just out of college and unable to get a teaching job, you may not have run across many of these situations. You have probably been receiving middle/upper class students who were ill, or just had a run of hormones and got in short term trouble for a week or two. At one point or another, you WILL get one of MY students. Since the district no longer pays for gas mileage, most tutors meet their student at the public library. BUT...some students cannot get there because of transportation problems. Or they are so obnoxious they have been banned from the library (or you're so embarrassed you don't want to expose the librarians and library patrons to these students). Maybe the district sends a bus to take them to the library (which, at 8mpg diesel, plus bus driver's pay, makes WAY more sense than paying YOU to drive there), but the student never gets on while the bus stops traffic for ten minutes honking in front of their house (while the student, backed up by Mom-who was not there-will swear the bus never came). And there you sit at the library, clueless, getting paid to rearrange the books according to the Dewey Decimal System instead of tutoring, because you're bored out of your mind and all caught up on your paperwork.

With some of the students, being a taxpayer myself, I prefer to eat the gas mileage and go to their homes. IF you do home visits, there are a few simple items you will need, other than books and papers, and these are essentials.

For Elementary Students:

In addition to work, you will need crayons, markers, colored pencils, colored paper, dominoe, matching card memory game, math and letter flashcards, childrens' story book, especially for the younger ones. They will have NOTHING in the house. No school or art supplies of any kind. There will be a 60" plasma TV with a starred screen from Rent-A-Center and a VCR/DVD player with all the wires chewed up by the family dog(s), and stacks of dvd's and vhs tapes that were never returned to the various libraries and video stores they came from as these people moved from town to town every 6-9 months. Most of the children in these homes under the age of 10 will be unable to read, count, write their own full name, tie their shoes, recite the alphabet, recognize common barnyard animals.

None have learning disabilities. They are just victims of neglect.

Used with permission given by Dean Davis of Living World Ecology Center. (c) 2011 All Rights Reserved