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.


  1. So never chew on their pencils, is that the moral of the story? :)

  2. Not quite sure what the moral of the story is beyond making sure you bulk up on supplies for tax purposes. :D

  3. I think the moral of the story is uneducated by choice...slobs by design

  4. Darth: Ahhh, the Oscar Madison approach to education.

    I like that. :D


Originality. Is. Good. Be original. Be thoughtful. But most importantly, make me think.