Boys Will Be Boys, Right?

, , , , , | Learning | June 30, 2020

I work as a tutor at an “academy” whose programme was specifically created to help kids learn English through reading. It’s important to note that the programme was created in South Korea and is licensed out to business owners who are mostly also native Korean speakers. This mostly isn’t a problem, but sometimes…

One of my students is a particularly bright ten-year-old whose English is excellent and who reads at quite a high level. He tends to be assigned longer books as a result.

Me: “Hey, buddy, how’s it going? What did you read this week?” 

Student: *Looking worried* “Uh… Lord of the Flies.”

Me: “I’m sorry? Did you say Lord of the Flies?”

Student: “Yes.”

I know that some literary classics are published in abridged and expurgated versions to make them more accessible for younger audiences. I wouldn’t think this treatment would work for “Lord of the Flies,” but maybe?

Me: “Can I take a look at your copy of the book?”

He produces the book. Nope, it’s exactly the same edition I read in high school when I was seventeen.

Student: “You know, um, I don’t think this book is for kids. It was really scary.”

Me: “You’re definitely right about that.”

After his session was over, I went to my boss and suggested that this particular book not be assigned to kids younger than about fifteen. She seemed baffled at the idea that a literary classic that’s ABOUT children might not be FOR children — “It’s on the programme list!” — but I eventually persuaded her not to assign it to any more preteens.

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Why DID They Have Belly Buttons?

, , , , | Learning | May 23, 2020

I’m a private English tutor in Spain, and from time to time I help my students with other subjects they are also being taught in English.

During an intense lesson in science and the reproductive system:

Me: “So, do you remember what we said about Adam and Eve, and why they have a belly button?”

Student: “Yes, I do. I also asked about it in religion class.”

Me: “Oh, really? And what did they say?”

Student: “The nun kicked me out!”

I high-fived him. Hard not to laugh! Question authority, little man!

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You Think YOU Hate Math?

, , , , , , | Learning | May 8, 2020

I work as a private tutor to help pay for college. I usually tutor math, but sometimes I’ll also tutor the more math-heavy sciences. Most of my students are regulars who have weekly or monthly appointments, but at exam time, I get a lot of new and often one-time students. They — or their parents — want someone to help them study for their exams.

When I get a three-hour booking for Algebra 2, I know it’s going to be one of those cram sessions. However, once I arrive, the mother asks me to also tutor her other two children in AP Physics and AP Chemistry after I’m done with the three-hour session. She makes it sound like they only need a little help with the math, so I agree on the condition that she pays a slightly higher rate for the last-minute change and understands that I haven’t had time to review any of the material for the second two subjects.

It turns out that all three of her children need an intense cram session to learn an entire semester’s worth of material in a single day. The first kid keeps to the three-hour time frame, but the other two need even longer. It’s not just the math they need help with, either.

I arrive at 9:00 am, and I’m there until 9:00 pm.

They provide me with two meals, since I wasn’t expecting to be there so long. However, there’s an ingredient mixed into the sauce at dinner that I’m allergic to. The allergy is mild, so I don’t even notice until after I’ve finished eating and don’t need medical attention. It does make my throat sore, though. For the last three hours or so, I’m progressively losing my voice, between the allergic reaction and the fact that I’ve been talking almost nonstop for hours.

By the end of it, I’m mentally exhausted. The mother states an amount of money and asks if it’s right while counting out bills — most other clients pay electronically or by check. I’ve never even seen that much money at once, so I just nod without thinking about it. It’s not until I get to the car that I realize the total doesn’t cover the number of hours I worked, even at my base rate. If it was just a few dollars, I might not bother going back, but it’s short by about $100.

I go back and knock on the door, feeling a little ridiculous to have not caught the mistake right away. I explain what happened, and the mother, of course, asks why I got the math wrong if I’m a math tutor.

The father is standing nearby and hears my explanation of the situation. Before I can answer, he comes up behind his wife and says, “Probably because you just had her work a twelve-hour shift of mentally taxing work when she was expecting a few hours, tops, and then nearly poisoned her. Just pay her, honey.”

The wife still seems reluctant, so the husband gives me two hundred-dollar bills from his wallet and tells me to keep the change. It was probably the most money I’ve ever made in a single day, but I decided I was never doing it again. This is why I now have a blanket policy of no unexpected extra students or school subjects.


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War Is A Cartoon Joke

, , , , , | Learning | December 9, 2019

(I live in Israel where military service is mandatory and there’s no shortage of conflicts. But as a mostly non-political cartoonist, I tend to stay away from this subject when drawing, except for this one time. I am sitting in the house of a thirteen-year-old kid to whom I am giving private lessons in illustration. While he works on the comic I assigned him to draw, I sit down to work on my own comic series, which is about stories from my life. He leans over and reads the page I’m working on. It talks about me preparing to get on a bus and head to fight in a war.)

Student: “You were in a war?”

Me: “Yeah.”

(He takes a moment to process this, since this isn’t something I typically talk about, nor do I look like much of a typical “fighter.”)

Student: *now poking my shoulder with his stylus* “I’m just imagining you walking up to enemies on the battlefield and kind of… poking them with your drawing pen.”

(I stare at it for a moment before turning my sight back to my drawing.)

Me: “You’re joking, but I’ll have you know it was a pretty aggressive war.”

Student: *immediately looks regretful and withdraws the stylus* “S-Sorry.”

Me: “We lost a lot of–”

Student: *interjecting with guilt* “I apologize.”

Me: “–good pillows that day.”

(It was silent for a moment. Even though I was not looking directly at him he was glaring at me so hard I could basically feel it on the side of my head. He got up, threw his hands and stylus in the air, and noped out of the room as I burst out laughing.)

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Undermined By Underwear

, , , , , , | Learning | November 7, 2019

(I work as a part-time tutor because I need some extra cash and I enjoy working with children. This evening, I am working with a ten-year-old girl who is known to be very bubbly and intelligent. She also tends to be very talkative and I doubt she has ever had a thought she has not vocalized. I am helping her through her study packet when, out of the blue, she says this.)

Girl: “I’m not wearing underwear!”

Me: “W… What?!”

Girl: *giggling* “I don’t have any underwear!”

Me: *takes a moment to process this bizarre declaration* “Uh… yes, you are?”

Girl: “Nuh-uh!”

Me: “Yes, you are.”

Girl: “How do you know?”

Me: “Because you’re wearing leggings and your panties show through them.”

Girl: *sheepish at being caught in a lie* “Oh…”

Me: “Now, stop making up silly things and let’s finish your work.”

(We finish the session without further incident and I think nothing more about it, save for chuckling a couple of times at how odd it is. The next time I come into work, the assistant director asks to speak with me.)

Assistant Director: “I got a very strange report about your conduct from another teacher.” *looks more perplexed than concerned* “She said you were discussing inappropriate topics with your student and… and that you are a peodophile? Something about talking about the underwear she was wearing?”

(I stammer dumbfounded at such accusations, but then I explain to him the full story.)

Assistant Director: *chuckling* “That sounds like something [Girl] would say. I’ll have a talk with the accuser. This is an extremely serious accusation to make for such trivial reasons.”

(I worked with my assigned student that night without incident. There was only one other tutor with me on the floor the night in question, so I knew who must have made the report. I am not sure what was said to her, but she refused to make eye-contact the rest of my time there. There’s a good reason men are under-represented in the field of childhood education. It is far too easy to ruin someone’s life with false accusations. Think before you report!)

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