Friday, July 1, 2011

Your Unofficial Guide To Home Tutoring (6)

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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 Look poor and act withdrawn and distant.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


  1. You make it sound like the career of your life. I can hardly wait to give up my current work and take up a home tutoring job. :)

  2. Charles, can you imagine what the end result would be if either one of us was unleashed to the public at large?


  3. All of that and theft to boot? Yuck.

  4. R: Yup.

    Future politicians in the making.

  5. This was fun and poignant all at once. A different look at home tutoring for sure.

  6. David: Most definitely.

    Wait until I publish the final installment. You just might be able to use it as a plot idea for a short story.

  7. I love the "real" in your writing voice. It's a gift that you are lucky to have. Great post!

  8. Kelly: Thanks, but the credit for this post goes to my good friend Dean.


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