Tutoring- Not my day job, but I wish it was

27 03 2011

Isa working at her desk

Surprisingly, tutors are on high demand at our school.  Country Day doesn’t really offer special education services because it’s so small and many of the families that have children in our school are wealthy, to say the least.  It is because of this mix that many parents turn to tutors to supplement their child’s education and to ensure that they are successful.  Apart of me also thinks that our parents are very busy and very hard working, and thus, need someone to sit down with their child and make sure they are doing ok in their classes and getting all of their homework done.

Miguel and I have found that English teachers are also pretty needed in the tutoring field because many students are second language learners; English being their second language.  So, in November when a parent called me and asked me to help her 5th grade daughter with studying for tests and preparing for 6th grade, I jumped at the opportunity.  In the pool of kids who need tutors, a 5th grader who wants to prepare for middle school is an amazingly good catch.

It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my tutoring experience in a nice little post.  I don’t even know where to begin to describe it.  I suppose I should mention that Isabella, one of my tutees, is such a sweet little girl, I have really come to enjoy hanging out with her.  We are buddies for sure.

I began tutoring her with the expectation that I would visit her house and we would have our sessions in her room.  I immediately came across the problem of getting to her house.  I had her mom talk to the cab driver to make sure that I had the right directions, and when he pulled up to the house, I was astounded.  Her house wasn’t a house, but a mansion.

The entrance to Isa's house

Her live-in-maids, yes plural… MAIDS, greeted me initially and her mom and brother welcomed me with a kiss.  I was led to her room and we got straight to work studying for a spelling test and working through her reading homework.  It was strange, and I don’t think it was ever intentional, but I felt like “the help” for the first time in my life.   When our hour was up, I had the maids call a taxi to come and get me because I had no idea where I was.  I was overwhelmed, but I knew Isa and I were going to get along, which was the most crucial part of tutoring.  When I finally made it home I spilled every detail to Miguel, including recounting Isa’s private soccer field and basketball court.  Wow.

The partial-front view. There is a guest house in the back.

I was able to get a taxi to Isa’s house pretty easily, but for the first four weeks I struggled getting a taxi to pick me up from her house.  You would think it would be very easy to say, “The mansion on calle Los Laureles” but it wasn’t the only mansion on the block, and the house is really inauspicious from the road.  I met with Isa 2 times a week but the frequency didn’t matter.  I had to tell the dispatch lady a million different land marks to describe the place.  I would often try to arrange a pick up with the taxi who dropped me off, but it just never worked out.  I was regularly waiting 20-30 minutes for a taxi (sometimes out in the rain because Isa was eating dinner and I felt awkward being the random person waiting in the living room while the family ate).  I eventually gave up calling a taxi to pick me up, sucked it up, and walked the 2 kilometers to the gym.  I made the right decision because I really enjoyed the walk and I was saving money AND I was forced to go to the gym.  I had formed a routine that worked.

About three weeks ago my routine was changed.  I showed up to the house to work with Isa, and it was in disarray.  There were workers all over the house and everything was covered in plastic.  There were huge renovations underway.  We worked in Isa’s mom’s room while she rested… it was super awkward, and from then on we have been meeting in my classroom.  My life is now infinitely easier because of this.  I love it.  Also, not surprisingly, Isa is way more productive during our sessions in my class than in her bedroom.

Isa's room mid-session

Miguel has also been tutoring.  He tutors Gabe, a 6th grader, one day a week in writing and reading.  They have been working together for nearly 5 weeks now, and I think he’s not as thrilled with tutoring as I am… Gabe is a fidgety and anxious kid.  Sweet as they come, but he’s an 11 year old boy… much different.

To add to all of this, just this past week, a mom approached both Miguel and I and asked us to tutor her son, Santino.  She wanted Miguel to tutor him in social studies and me to tutor him in reading/writing.  We both meet with Santino once a week at the school and we are both really happy that we took him on.  He’s a really good kid, and it’s really rewarding to work with him.

So, three days out of my week and two days out of Miguel’s week are spent meeting with students for tutoring.  It is a big part of our lives and I think both of us really enjoy the experience plus the money isn’t bad either!

-V

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