Saturday, March 26, 2011

second week of work survived

I'm off today, having managed to negotiate a Monday-through-Thursday schedule for myself. (I plan to use my off days for personal projects, especially prep for the walk, and have informed my boss of this fact. She's been graciously accommodating.) All in all, it wasn't a bad week: I think I've improved slightly in my ability to keep records, and I've become a bit more familiar with some of the kids attending YB.

At the same time, this week had some low points, mainly in the form of trying to teach squirmy grade schoolers. The junior-high and high-school kids were fine, in terms of behavior, though I did have one HS student who was utterly unable to provide simple answers to direct questions: it turned out she had test anxiety, which has exacerbated by my looming, silent presence every time I waited for an answer from her. That sort of anxiety is hard to master; very often, the best you can you do is learn how to minimize it through knowledge and constant training.

I'm not convinced that YB's format is the best one for grade schoolers. Sitting still in a chair for two hours is beyond the capability of most kids in the lower half of elementary school. Unfortunately, this is what we're asked to do: keep them in place, make them focus, and maintain that state for two hours. Although none of my kids has acted out in a wild manner, I often leave those grade-schooler sessions with my nerves jangling.

Oh, and there's this low point as well, which happened happened yesterday: I had a moment, with my test-anxiety student, where I feel as if I failed her. It was a rather simple SAT math question, and for whatever reason, my mind blocked on the answer. The question went something like this: "If the square root of x equals x/k, what value represents x?" The choices given were answers like "-2k," etc. The answer is, of course, that x = k2, but for some reason this eluded me. Only later during the session did I have an epiphany and realize how simple it was to solve for x. But that was a bad, bad feeling, before the epiphany: the student doubtless felt I was an incompetent nincompoop, and I can't say I blame her. I may even have undermined her confidence in being able to tackle SAT math problems. Luckily, she and I worked primarily on SAT verbal problems, where I was much more helpful to her, but that math problem haunted me for the rest of the evening.

Speaking of evenings: I'm not sure how I'm adjusting to working a 3:30PM-9:30PM schedule. As I mentioned a while back, I keep my stomach empty during the day so as to avoid bathroom runs; this means avoiding breakfast and lunch, and eating dinner only after class is over. I get home a bit before 11PM, which often means a late, late dinner. One big, late meal per day is a recipe for disaster. Still, I don't see what else I can do except to stick with that plan: eat late in the evening, poop in the morning, and be ready for the day.

Once my paychecks start rolling in, what I may do is immediately grab dinner somewhere local to the YB branches where I teach, before the joints close. Eating at 9:30PM is, to my mind, little different from eating a French-style dinner, which can often be after 8PM. The problem is that, for the post-9:30 dinner crowd, restaurant pickings are slim. For the most part, it's either fast food or some "family dining" place like Bennigan's or TGI Friday's or Outback Steakhouse. The latter joints aren't always open beyond 10PM or 10:30PM, though I've noticed that that's changing: some establishments will stay open as late as midnight or even 1AM.

In any case, after months of agony, I've finally gotten what I wanted: steady work, with its attendant stresses, and a schedule that gives me free time and breathing room to do my own thing. While I would have appreciated full-time, salaried work that also provided benefits, I'm OK with what I've got. I've done two weeks at this new job, and while I haven't learned all the ropes, I now know that the days are survivable.


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