Friday, January 18, 2013

yesterday sucked ass

There are students I enjoy, and then there are students I endure. Yesterday was perhaps my worst day of work at YB Near. I had three tutoring sessions in a row with dud after dud-- almost all of whom I had to endure. The first session, I had two students: one studying for the SAT, and another studying pre-algebra. The first-- let's call him Vikram, has his heart in the right place, but his mock-SAT scores are in the dismal 300-something range; we spent time reviewing his latest mock SAT, in which he had skipped problems right and left. At the end of our review, Vikram, a senior, told me somberly he knew he was destined for community college (NVCC in his case: Northern Virginia Community College), and that his plan was to go that route for a year or two, then transfer, in theory, to a better college.

Sitting next to Vikram, during that first session, was Sam (not his real name; in fact, let's just assume I'll be using pseudonyms from here on in), a seventh-grader studying pre-algebra. Sam is probably the goofiest Korean kid I've ever met, and I don't mean goofy in a cute way. I generally have to say everything to him twice, because my first utterance tends to elicit a long blank look followed by a delayed-reaction "Huh?" How this kid can survive crossing the street is beyond me. Sam is generally compliant when I give him things to do, but he's terrible with homework: he almost never does the work I assign, which means a large chunk of class time is wasted while Sam does the unfinished homework. Teaching Sam is a slog, as a result.

My second session was far worse than the first, mainly thanks to one little fourth grader, Maximus, a little terror who simply would-- not-- shut-- up the entire two hours. This was confusing and disappointing: last week, Maximus was docile and relatively studious. The other two students were high-schoolers: Donnelly sat to my far left; Mustang Sally (about whom I've written before; she's mellowed out and gotten better over the intervening months) sat in the middle; little, chatty Maximus sat to my right. Donnelly kept creepily staring at Mustang Sally, a fact that Sally complained about after class. Sally was also bothered by Maximus's constant chatter.

"God," Sally whispered when Maximus started up again. Maximus, aware of the discomfort he was causing, furtively glanced at Sally.

"You're so annoying," Sally said at another point. Maximus, smiling at the damage he was causing, took her complaint in stride.

"That's your opinion," he shot back, insouciant.

I felt completely unable to manage Maximus, whom I would have gladly dragged outside and beaten to an unconscious pulp. So, yeah: I endured him. For two fucking hours.

My third session was with Iblis and Parvati (I've written about them before). After two hours of goddamn Maximus, Iblis actually came as a relief, which is saying something. Iblis was, surprisingly, pretty good during last night's final session, but ADHD kid that he is, he kept bumping the chair next to him, which in turn hit the dividing wall separating me from a colleague and his group of students.

"Stop hitting the wall, Iblis," I said several times. He tried to comply, but his compulsions took over and he would bang that wall again a few minutes later.

Thank God Parvati was there; she was the only real pleasure to teach all that day. Parvati's a big fan of history; she quoted detailed facts about the life of George Washington that I never knew. I often found myself nodding in amazement as she talked. She reminded me a bit of myself when I was her age, lecturing excitedly about octopi. I joked that we would eventually have to call her "Dr. Parvati, professor of history." She got a kick out of that.

I did a bit of a mental self-diagnostic at the end of that horrible day, and realized, to my delight, that I didn't have a stress headache. My blood pressure didn't seem elevated; other markers for stress and frustration were equally absent. I suppose this means I was able to "pull a Lily," so to speak, and retreat into my Happy Place during most of those six grueling hours. But my memory of those three sessions is bitter. I hope never to have a day like that again, but I suspect that my Wednesdays are going to be like this for a long time yet.


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