Thursday, October 18, 2012

a tale of two students

One of my students today, whom I'll call SK, walked in looking forlorn. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that his mother had been pulled over for going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit in a residential section. Yikes. SK was upset-- upset at his mother, upset at the policeman who pulled his mom over, upset at life. The fine is apparently close to a thousand dollars ($60 per mile-per-hour over the limit) and SK's mom, who is Korean and doesn't speak much English, would rather pay the fine than appear in court. She's undoubtedly thinking like a Korean: the shame of a court appearance is just too much for her. Of course, there are consequences for not appearing in court: first, there's the fact that, if she appears (repentant!) before a traffic court judge, that judge will very likely reduce her financial penalty and the number of points on her license. Second, if she stays home, pays the full penalty, and accepts the full number of points on her license, her insurance is going to become very expensive. Third, if she goes to court and the officer isn't there, the case will be dismissed. Why miss that chance?

SK's been dealing with mom-related issues for a little while, now. Today's traffic incident isn't the first time he's shown resentment toward his mother. He's embarking on his teen years, which means the boulder of his spirit is slowly thronging with the lichen of Attitude. I'm no family therapist, but I do sense that some gentle intervention may be called for. SK needs to understand that his parents made a brave decision when they jumped ship and came to America to start a new life. He needs to know his mom is doing the best she can in an alien culture. I know how much life can suck when at least one of your parents hasn't really been assimilated into the surrounding culture; my own mother and I used to go 'round and 'round ourselves. But SK's got only one mom, and he needs to understand that she's trying.*

Tonight was also my second night with Devil Child, who tonight put his stupid-ass graffiti on my own artwork, called me a "bully," acted like an impudent asshole and, through his generally pugnacious conduct, basically placed his immortal soul on the conveyor belt to hell. These were the two most trying hours of my entire YB career; I don't know how my colleague Lily (not her real name) has survived six go-arounds with this kid, all while keeping her sanity.

I had DC all to myself tonight: there were no other students with me that session. And thank goodness for that: DC creeps out the other students with his loud, obnoxious behavior. I'd rather have him alone. He borrowed colored pencils from Lily to work on a drawing this evening; the first thing he did was to take a million years sharpening those goddamn pencils, and then he proceeded to break pencil after pencil by pressing too hard on the paper as he was coloring. He adamantly refused to take instruction on how to do anything properly, whether we were talking about drawing or photocopying; he had no patience for explanations of any length; he was sloppy with his writing and his drawing, and he was a self-centered little bastard to boot. While I'd love to knock his stupid head off, the law and my conscience prevent me. This is a bad, bad situation.

And in a strange coda to tonight's fiasco, I met the kid's father in the parking lot as I was walking out the door for the night. Far from listing all of Devil Child's numerous sins, I merely told the father that DC needs to learn to concentrate more. His father said that DC's schoolteachers now see some improvement in him ever since he began coming to our tutoring center; I wouldn't know. I've taught DC only twice thus far, so if credit must go anywhere, it should go to my colleague Lily, who's dealt with him much more often.

The fact that DC's father is seeing improvement in his kid is bad news for us: we're sending the message that our center's methods work, so DC should continue to attend classes with us. Yumpin' Yaysus. I've got this kid again next Wednesday.

*I realize that "trying" has two senses.


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