Friday, July 15, 2011

Your Unofficial Guide To Home Tutoring (7)

{1}, {2}, {3}, {4}, {5}, {6}



No, that is NOT a misspelling. Just as dental floss is important to good oral hygiene,you will need mental flaws at the end of your session and the end of your day for good mental hygiene. You're going to see and hear things, horrible things, that are beyond belief. You need to floss them out of your glial spaces, because they are as stubborn as a shred of roast beef or a popcorn kernel scan is to get out of your teeth, or you WILL go starkers.

My first tutoring job.

I was sent to a collapsing hovel in Coeymans.  A fourteen-year-old boy, dirty but polite, did his work, head down, sitting at the sticky kitchen table. He hadn't spoken ten words in five days. Kicked out for anger problems, assault.From where I sat, stuck to the filthy kitchen chair, I could look to my left through the arch- like doorway, through the dining disaster, to the living nightmare. In the living nightmare was a threadbare couch covered with the biggest pile of laundry I had ever seen in my life (up to that point I now realize this was actually an amateur attempt at a Guinness record I recently encountered. Back then, to me, it was like Richard Dreyfuss' mud sculpture in Close Encounters).

On the fifth day, as I sat there, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and I looked at the couch. From under the laundry heap emerged the most horrifying sight I have ever had the misfortune to impact my retinas. A naked bleached blond.

As a healthy adult male, you would have to understand that the words 'horrifying' and 'naked blonde' would normally never even occur in the same county in my mind, much less in two short juxtaposed sentences. You had to be there.

First, the dirty blond hair poked out. Then, slowly, a weak, pale arm, hand clutching searchingly at the air. A shoulder. Then WHUMP!,out onto the floor an entire naked blond rolled. I had recently watched a rerun of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, I nearly flew out of my chair, headed for the door, but my jeans and naked arms (hey, I was NEW) were sticky-glued to it, like a bug in a sun dew plant. I was trapped. I sat there watching as the laundrypod person gathered itself up on its hands and knees, and slowly, pendulous breasts wobbling with their nipples an inch above the carpet, it crawled to us. My eyes darted to my student, the laundrypod person, the student, pod person...I had no idea what to do.

I have faced enraged king cobras up to seventeen and a half feet long, been chased by male black mambas during breeding season, I had a tiger viper at a show with one fang stuck in my zipper flap, the other searching for man meat, waving around in the air dripping venom as I held him by the tail, and I ALWAYS knew what to do. THIS was a totally unique experience.

I had never seen anyone actually stagger on hands and knees. I watched with morbid fascination and sheer terror of what was to come. My student didn't seem aware of the scenario, just kept working on his math. The new formed laundrypod blond slowly wended her way, bumping into objects along the path and changing course with difficulty, towards the kitchen. Once at the door, she pulled herself up on her knees using the overfilled garbage can (a big metal one, not the usual flippy-lid plastic kitchen decorator fare) and, without even brushing back her matted hair from her face, vomited noisily and copiously into the can, breast repeatedly slapping her chest and belly, gut spasmodically heaving like an alien was trying to emerge from within.

I wish I could have seen my face. I probably looked like Kermit the Frog in the beginning of that YouTube of him watching "Two Girls, One Cup".

Gasping, yellow drool hanging from her chin and the hair on her face, she finally tilted her head, squinted at me, brushed back her hair with one hand, wiped her chin with the other and said, "Hi!". I wiggled the fingers of one hand at her from where it was sticky-glued to the chair arm. And then, back down on all fours, she slowly crawled back to the couch, stopping twice as her gut heaved a couple times, this time with her breasts swinging out sideways and slapping back together, but no more vomit was forthcoming. The curtains did NOT match the carpet, by the way, hence the bleached blond tag. Watching a naked person on their hands and knees gag from behind is indescribable. And with some grunting and heaving, she managed to crawl back into the pile of laundry and disappear.

My student spoke the longest sentence he ever spoke in my presence. "That's my mom," he said, monotone. After asking around, I found out he was WAY better off with her than with Dad.

To this day, I have no idea how long she was buried in that pile. All week? Every day when I came for weeks? I never asked. Never saw her again. My student and I worked in deathly silence, daily, with me nervously glancing in the living room several time a minute during the longest two hours of my day.

Oddly, after years of not thinking of her, I run into this woman quite a bit locally. She's living with a guy I went to school with. Lucky guy, she belongs to him, YOU can't have her!

Mental floss. SO important. You may choose a glass of wine, a doobie (I'm not judgmental), a movie, sitcoms, or loud music to drive it from you mind. I don't drink or do drugs (when you work with venomous snakes, large crocodiles, and in the past, even lions and tigers and bears, drug and alcohol are a BAD idea); movies, sitcoms, have a mild effect on me. I have tinnitus, so loud music won't do. When things are down, though, you are READING my mental floss. If I couldn't put this down in humor, the reality of the way these kid live would drive me completely over the edge. Free pass to the Enchanted Kingdom (Four Winds). When I arrive home each day, I often give my girlfriend a quick run down of the day's events, but she always gets a copy of my e-mails so we can laugh together.

The mind's eye, my canvas; words, my palette; the keyboard, my brush. I am Dean Davis, and I am a home tutor. I hope these little tips come in handy and make your job easier, safer, and more enjoyable. Feel free to contact me with any questions/suggestions.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Your Unofficial Guide To Home Tutoring (6)

{1}, {2}, {3}, {4}, {5}

Practice in the mirror. Your sincere face, concerned face, sympathetic face. Nodding, grunting like you're listening, appropriate affirmations.

Because you're going to hear things. You won't have to ask anything, it will just pour out of them sporadically.

Stories about their days, nights, their entire lives, family, relatives, friends, crimes, court, weekly police encounters. And if you are unfortunate enough to have an adult there (I've only met nine parents in eight years of tutoring up to four students a day), they're going to treat you like free therapy day at the mental health clinic. They are all very sensitive to any sign of horror, derision, disrespect you may show, and since many of them drink or are on drugs, will hallucinate them to begin with, so... your best sincere face, or your best poker face. Nod. Endless nodding. No eye contact, let them ramble until they run out. Pretend you have been married to them for years and discovered what a huge mistake you made, but they have you over a barrel financially, and all you can do is cope, keep things light, and pray for the strength to commit suicide, or watch for that asteroid you've been hoping will finally cleave the planet asunder.

They, the kids and adults, will ask you for favors. Money. Smokes. Booze. Drugs. Food. Rides. A urine specimen so they can pass a piss test. Borrow your cell phone. Borrow your car. A place to stay. If you just like I do, these favors are requested much less often. Look poor and act withdrawn and distant. Hard to beat them, but try to look like you are from a nearby neighborhood they look down on. Keep only five bucks paper money on your person, and no change (if they hear change they'll ask for it), lock the rest in your car.

And make EFFING sure you lock your car-- while the kid keeps you busy, his/her friends/family will be robbing you. I learned that at Oakbrook Manor, first-year tutoring. They can ferret out a hide-a-key like a meerkat sniffing out a grub. No wallet. No jewelry. No watch. No cell. No laptop. They will still anything they can lay their hands on (another reason NOT not to use their bathroom). Oh, sure, you can have a nice bag or briefcase to keep them in, then you have to put that somewhere. Where are you going to put it? Table? Floor? See my point? Keep lots of educational material visible in your car and you will be safe -- they have no interest in such. Books, forms and papers to these guys are like garlic to a vampire, like kryptonite to Superman.

Car safety -- most of these people do metal rods. They steal... umm... collect.. metal in their vehicles and take it to the port of Albany for cigarette money. Hence their driveways/parking spots are loaded with sharp pieces of rusted metal, screws, etc. I've had many a flat this way. If they are metal recyclers... just pull in far enough to get out on the road, and watch carefully as you do for metal shards.

I cannot stress the importance of this next convenience enough. Get one of those clip lights people used to work on cars,with a 100 W bulb in it, and a 20 foot long extension cord. These people live in the dark, like Subway dwellers or mole men. Very often, the area where you are to work will have NO working lights. All the bulbs will be burnt out, or the circuits in that room had something wrong with them. Having a cord in your own light will help immenselyy. I like to hang my light from the broken ceiling fan over the table.I also like to offload the microwave to plug it in. Then someone has to figure out how to reset the clock... or not. Most likely not.
But they will bitch about it for years, and a quiet nights, after the cable has been cut off for nonpayment, it gives them something to watch. At one home, the kid was depressed after I unplugged the microwave, because he couldn't have popcorn that night. Apparently the microwave was broken (the plug late next to it on the counter, lol). The hundred watt bulb sounds excessive, but their homes eat up light like they eat up hope, pride and hygiene, so it will be bright enough for you, and will absolutely annoy the piss out of THEM. They'll be squinting like an owl driven out of a cave at high noon in a Tucson summer. You know that in their condition they can actually HEAR the light striking their eyes.

It's the little things...heh, heh, heh.

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