When Sax-ing Is Taxing

, , , , , | Learning | September 5, 2017

(I sometimes volunteer my time to teach kids how to play the saxophone. I’ve been playing the instrument for almost seven years, and have learned many music techniques. I am helping a kid, who’s about thirteen years old, with the basics of playing, and up until now she has been very polite to me.)

Me: “All right. The first thing to do is to press these two fingers down for A for four counts.”

Kid: “SHUT UP! I know how to play this instrument.”

(She then takes the saxophone from me and begins to play the wrong notes.)

Me: “That’s not the right note. You need to press down those—”

Kid: “I KNOW how to play! I bet you don’t even play this instrument!”

Me: *trying to stay polite* “Actually, I’ve played for many years and—”

Kid: “LIAR!”

Me: *still trying to stay polite* “I can assure you that—”

(Before I could finish the sentence, she threw the saxophone at my head and stormed out, talking about quitting this instrument and music altogether. Luckily, she had terrible aim, but the sax was extremely damaged. We had to call her parents in order to repair it. Sadly, they were just like her, though we did get them to repair it eventually.)

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Stifling Synonyms

| Learning | July 24, 2017

(I’m helping a ninth grader with an essay she received a poor grade on. It’s easy to see why; the paper is filled with awkward phrasing like, “the battle instigates when Napoleon convinces the other animals to fight,” “propaganda contains a lot of drawbacks,” and “Napoleon’s war plans accord with Stalin’s brilliant military strategy in real life.”)

Me: “So… there are some good ideas in here, but your syntax is a little hard to understand. See how your teacher marked ‘awk’ in certain places?”

Student: “Yeah, but I don’t really get what she means when she says it’s awkward.”

Me: “You know, when I was in school, I had this friend who didn’t think she had a strong enough vocabulary, so she relied on a thesaurus to try and make her essays sound more impressive. But a lot of the time, she didn’t fully understand the words she was using — whether they took an object, or had a certain connotation — and it actually hurt the clarity of her writing.”

Student: “Oh…” *blinks, tilts her head thoughtfully* “Yeah, I do that.”

Me: “I kind of figured.”

Student: “So I should stop using a thesaurus?”

Me: “Well, you need to use words you know. If that means using a simpler word to be safe, sometimes that’s what you’ll have to do. If you do use a synonym, look it up in a sentence to make sure it’s actually what you want. And…”

Student: “Yes?”

Me: “Maybe don’t talk about Joseph Stalin being ‘brilliant’? Just a thought.”

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Are You Sure Is A Sure Fire Way

, , , | Hopeless | June 28, 2017

While I am in college, I do some occasional tutoring. One thing I do, as did people who taught me when I was younger, is ask “are you sure?” when I am shown an answer that I know is incorrect. On occasion, I do the same with a right answer and the student will go back and check the work.

I have one girl as a student who is failing algebra and her parents agree to hire me. She makes some steady progress in school, but still struggles. I play that little are-you-sure game with her from time to time. One day, I give her a problem, she works it, and gives me the result. I ask her “are you sure?” Without the slightest hesitation or move to check her work she said “yes!” Something in her clicked and she had the confidence to know she had it right. Bam! From that point forward, she is getting straight A’s on homework and tests. Seeing someone excel like that is a thrill I never forgot. As I concluded writing this, I searched for her name on Google and found her on LinkedIn. She completed her bachelor’s degree and is a successful businesswoman.

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Needs To Be Tutored In The Art Of Giving A D*mn

, , , , | Learning | June 12, 2017

(I work as a freelance math tutor. One day, I meet my client for an appointment and have the following exchange:)

Me: “I see you’re going to [Local Community College]. Which class are you taking?”

Student: “I don’t know.”

Me: *assuming maybe he forgot the name of the class* “Ok, do you have the book?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Well then, do you happen to have the syllabus?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Then why did you set up this appointment?”

Student: “No, that was my uncle.”

(I just left at that point.)

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They’ve Been Around For Hundreds Of Years

| Learning | May 18, 2017

(I’m tutoring a high school student who is reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

Student: “What does “spotted and inconstant” mean?”

Me: “What would you call a guy who flirts with a girl until she falls in love with him, then dumps her and chases after her best friend?”

Student: “A f***-boy.”

Me: “Well, yes, but if you write about him in your essay maybe you should say he’s fickle instead.”

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