Working With Children, Cont’d

5 Oct

Is it a good sign if you’re thinking about getting a new job only three weeks after starting your current one? I wrote my previous post about the new tutoring job the first week I started, when it was still novel and charming. It only took the next week for that to change and give way to anxiety attacks.

Let me give you a better idea of what my job actually entails. Each class is two hours, and I have four kids for each class. Each week, each kid is given five booklets: an English booklet, an English workbook, two “basic thinking” math booklets, and one “critical thinking” math booklet. They do a few pages of each book for classwork and then finish the books for homework. During class time, I am supposed to grade their homework, give it back to them so they can fix their mistakes, then also grade all of their classwork and make them fix all their mistakes. All within the two hours.

There are lots of obstacles to getting all of this done on time. One is that often the kids come in with their homework incomplete. However, instead of that being the kid’s responsibility, it becomes my responsibility to make sure the kids DO the rest of their homework before we can keep going. Not fun when a lot of kids leave their entire English workbook undone. The other obstacle is that a lot of these kids just don’t speak a lot of English. Obviously the whole point of the English portion of the program is for these kids to LEARN English, but the directions for all of the exercises are written in English, even in the math books, so often times I have to explain how to do each and every exercise for all of these kids while I balance assisting them with grading their work.

I have one particular class where most of the kids think the best way to get my attention is to grab my arm or tap me, instead of just waiting, so often time I am being pawed by several children at once while they are all asking me, in Chinese, “teacher, how do I do this?” If you’ve seen Jesus Christ Superstar, do you know the scene where all the lepers are crowding around Jesus, asking him to heal them, but there are too many? That’s how I feel, a feeling induced just by three kids. I’d make a terrible messiah.

However, if I don’t get everything done in time, the parents complain. If I tell some parents about how their kids take a while to finish their work, and they’re just like “Really? When he/she’s home, I see him/her do his homework really quickly.” Well, sure, because your kid just filled in random answers and letters. He spelled “music” as “M-A-I-L-S-I-C-K,” (true story) don’t you think you should check what he’s doing?

Then there are the parents who want us to do MORE beyond the normal curriculum and booklets. One particular parent wants us to always write down extra exercises in a composition notebook for her kids to do. The whole point of this program is that it’s extra school to do outside of school. This mom, thus, wants us to give him EXTRA EXTRA SCHOOL. She’s obviously going to be very disappointed if he doesn’t have his PhD by the time he’s 12.

That’s another thing, is that some of these kids are really young, like 5 or 6, like this kid, and they barely have the ability to concentrate on their work, let alone finish it all in two hours. This one kid with the crazy mother in particular is obviously smart, because he can do his stuff, it’s just that getting him to cooperate and do it is such a long painful process it’s like pulling teeth made out of scrota, or like pulling teeth and then replacing those teeth with africanized bees.

Just this past Sunday, the kid came in, sat down, and gave me his homework. All without saying a word, since he’s a typical shy Asian kids. I gave him his classwork, and he wasn’t doing it. I started telling him to work, and then just, out of nowhere, before he even says his first WORD to me of the class, bleeeeeeeeeech, he starts vomiting on himself and the desk. It was amazing how calm he was about it. Just serenely puking out his lunch, which was still very clearly discernible as some kind of noodle dish. Maybe he was puking because he hadn’t chewed his food very well.

I couldn’t help but be kind of astonished again just by the casual boldness of the whole thing, like the girl who started crying and kept crying the whole class. I admire how kids can just do those kinds of things without a hint of self-consciousness. Unfortunately, my job at that point was not to admire, but to clean up his sick. Thankfully, this was early enough in the class his mom was still there to help clean him up. Ironically, he actually finished all of his classwork and homework on time. Maybe he should get sick more often, then.

So that’s what I have to deal with. Four classes (eight hours) on Saturday and three classes (six hours) on Sunday of kids who clearly don’t want to be there and parents who don’t think I’m doing enough and think I should cut my hair. It’s come to my mind that no matter how good with Mandarin I might be, my appearance will always sabotage any chances I have of Asian parents trusting me. My relationship with Asian culture is best when I’m just being observed as a novelty because I can coherently speak, much like Mark Rosewell, aka Dashan, a Canadian who has basically gained fame  in China for being really good at Chinese. However, when I am held up to the same kind of scrutiny that’s reserved for other Chinese people, I obviously fail and fail hard.

On top of ALL of that, this past week, the team supervisor (the “is it hard” girl) came in and said that apparently more people have been complaining and the quality of teaching has gone down at the location I work at. She purposefully moved out all of the experienced teachers except for the team leader, and all of the teachers working there now, including me, have only started in the last couple of weeks. Now all of a sudden she’s surprised at a drop in quality? I would imagine if you staffed a hospital with 100% fresh medical school grads, you might see a drop in quality there, too. Just be glad none of us has accidentally amputated the wrong foot on one of these kids. Is it unreasonable of me to expect just a teeny bit of a learning curve?

The money is good, at least, but I don’t know if that’s enough to balance out all the negatives and the fact that it basically steals my entire weekend. I asked the team leader about having my hours changed so maybe I could work some weekday hours, but she said they want teachers to stay all day, so I could only adjust my hours by only working one of those days instead of both. I have to ask why? Why is it important to have the same teacher when it’s different students for each class? Continuity with the students is important, yes, but continuity with the same day? It makes no sense to me. Maybe it’s bad feng shui.

I haven’t quit yet, but I am definitely back on Craigslist searching. I actually got some replies from two other tutoring companies, including Berlitz and Kumon, and they invited me to some “prospective employee orientation” things. I would enjoy Kumon since it’s a one-on-one tutoring thing and would probably be a lot less stressful. If they can offer me at least the same number of hours at the same rate of pay, I am jumping ship faster than a Cuban refugee who just got caught by the coast guard.

Basically this job has gotten me to dread Saturdays and Sundays and anticipate the work week, when I can ply make believe showbiz and do comedy. That’s probably not the best mental state to be in, I might need the weekend time to work on my grad school stuff, and it’s cutting into the time I can spend with my girlfriend. Remedial measures must be taken.

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