Thursday, March 16, 2006

I'm steamed right now

I had an interesting encounter last night. Since subbing doesn't quite cut the mustard, I've been supplementing my income the past few years by tutoring students at a well-known national chain. The other day, I had one student come in prepping for the SAT, and I was given the responsibility for the math section. Well, it was very clear to me that she was not ready for this. She had had two weeks to do the homework I'd given her, and that was only a few pages, and she hadn't done it, claiming she didn't have time (she'd only started it the night before). No problem, I said, we can work on it now. As we worked, it became clear that her skills are not where they need to be, either. She had to struggle with simple concepts like absolute value and solving a simple algebraic equation, and I had to tell her what to do several times. I understand that not everyone is strong in math, and I empathize with people who struggle, so I tried to do my best to help her. Fortunately, for her second hour (yes, she was there for two hours), my other students didn't show up, so I could work with her one-on-one. I could have taken another student from another teacher, but I felt this student really needed the attention. (The other teacher was helping her out on the verbal and writing sections of the SAT, and he later agreed that that was a good call, and he had no problem dealing with more than one student that hour as a result.) Later, after she was gone, I talked with one of our directors of education, and I'm pretty sure I convinced him that this student was not ready for the SAT.

Fast forward to yesterday. As soon as I got in, the center director called me in, and told me that something I said made her feel stupid. Huh? So I pressed for details, but he didn't have any! He didn't know what I said, as he hadn't even talked to the student. He'd gotten the news from one of the directors of education who had talked with the student's mother. Not only that, the center director mentioned another incident of me being "insensitive" from a few weeks ago that he never even mentioned to me, and he didn't remember any of the details any more. Huh? So, armed with all this information, he reminded me to be more sensitive about what I'm saying to students, yada yada yada. Yeah, like I know what not to say now, that was really helpful.

Look, I don't deny that the student might have felt bad about what was going on. I know I was frustrated at the situation, and I'm sure she was as well. Having to do it for two hours (instead of the usual one) only made the situation worse. But I was doing everything I could to be encouraging and upbeat and helpful and enthusiastic, but all I get told is, "You said something that made her feel stupid, don't do it again."

What really frosts me, however, is this other incident. Either it was so insignificant that nobody decided to tell me, or I had forgotten about it. Well, if it was the latter, it's my fault, but I swear, I can't remember any discussions about similar incidents in the last few weeks. In any case, what was the point of bringing it up if neither one of us could remember the details? It just smacked to me of some of the baloney that was going on with my time in Marysville. The principal there would bring up little incidents that happened weeks earlier, or repeatedly bring up minor incidents that she'd already talked to me about when she had a new one to grill me for. Frankly, I really do not enjoy having my mistakes held against me more than once, nor do I appreciate people with gripes against me holding them in and not telling me until much, much later. If I mess up, I want and need to know as soon as possible, and I want to be trusted to have to deal with them only once and not have them thrown in my face again and again.

This job has been terrific, as it has given me stability over the past few turbulent years, and I've got to work with some terrific people — both students and staff. But this reprimand just rubbed me the wrong way, and it's got me in a major funk. How can I not do it again if I don't even know what it was in the first place? And why am I accused of such a thing when I was put into such a challenging situation, anyway? Sheesh. It really makes me wonder why I even get out of bed some mornings.

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