04 February 2010


Thursday Thirteen: Teaching Edition
(Also counted as as "Tutor Tales: Volume 13")

Why not try a new link up, I thought, and one with a lot of numbers because I miss writing them in binary code?

And so this post was born. (The numbers coinciding was pure serendipity.)

My adventures in homeschooling took a seedy turn this week, when Fire Storm's mother returned some grading sheets I had made for him, with the same note scribbled in the margins: "Please make these grades higher."

Later, she explained that his marks needed to be as high as possible in order for him to have a shot at getting accepted in a private high school--which was always her plan for him. She hadn't wanted him to be homeschooled for more than a year; she intends to have him back in what she considers a real school . . . and I am a means to that end.

It was like high school all over again, and so I acted accordingly, doing what the administration wanted and hoping that the student body wouldn't end up too screwed.

The next day, I told Fire Storm that since I had already given him grades for Units 1 to 5 of his Maths syllabus, I understood if he wanted to skip the exercises and self-tests in Units 4 and 5.

He hesitated, the workbooks for those last two units before him on the dining room table. Then he asked, "But are they important?"

I could have danced a jig! "Yes, they are important . . . but you're also 'officially' done with them and I don't want you to feel as if you're wasting your time."

"But what if I want to do everything?"

"In that case, we'll need more time." I gave him a conspiratorial wink. "Tell your mother you need me for Summer Maths Enrichment Study."

He thought it was an excellent idea.

People whose work is tied to the school year often need to line up other jobs in the summer--and I'm no exception. Mrs. Storm did ask me to tutor Fire Storm's older brother, who is getting ready for uni entrance exams; but after I saw all the Trigonometry, Calculus, Biology and Chemistry I'd have to brush up on, I had to tell her that I wasn't qualified to help him.

I really hope, though, that she will let Fire Storm complete the entire Maths syllabus with me over the summer.

Another reason I need a summer job is that this school year found me constantly under budget. When my boss hired me to work at XYZ Tutorial Centre, she planned to let me take all her tutees while she went on maternity leave. With over a dozen of them, the job was a very good prospect indeed. A few weeks after I signed my contract, my boss lost her baby.

And that is how I got "stuck" with all the special needs kids who have special arrangements for one-on-one tutoring, and without much of a chance to line up other students.

Not that I'm complaining; it's just the reality of my situation. My boss is a great lady who would have kindly let me go, I think, if I had told her that the salary wasn't meeting my needs, it was not what we had agreed on, etc. Yet I hung around anyway because I didn't want her to go to the trouble of finding someone new (and perhaps taking up the slack in the meantime) at such a time in her life. I won't be able to afford another year of this, though.

Next week, I'm going to stop by an affordable university that offers classes to teachers who want further accreditation. If I can get enough credit, I'd like to try applying to private high schools again, and go back to teaching full time. I really miss teaching teenagers.

(This doesn't mean I've abandoned my dream to study at the University of Texas! I just need to be more employable before next school year.)

Speaking of teenagers . . . today Noxxtis let me read a copy of the short story A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, which she is studying in her English class. It was my first anything by Faulkner, and it made me feel like some Yankee.

Noxxtis and I discussed it for about half an hour, and all I took away from it was the conviction that one's mind would have to be more American--and perhaps also more Southern--in order for one to read Faulkner as he deserves to be read.

In the meantime, at least I have a pretty good handle on Doctor Decimator's assigned reading: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I started rereading this YA classic for his sake and found it much better than I thought it would be.

The danger which Jews were in from the Nazis has become such a common theme in WWII-set novels that I'm just no longer interested; but revisiting a book from my own childhood is always an eye-opening experience. For the first time, I saw the war and the Nazi occupation of Denmark through the eyes of Annemarie's parents. I could imagine their silent suffering at the thought of what the war was doing to their children--and near the end, their silent pride when they saw that the war had turned their children into heroes.

On the other end of XYZ Tutorial Centre, the little girls who are Doctor Decimator's age are reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. I'm trying not to be envious. (I also miss teaching girls.)

Now for more Maths! Doctor Nemesis really does prefer step-by-step instructions to formulae. We got so much work done after I gave in, stopped trying to make him memorise "BH/2" (the area of a triangle) or "2L + 2W" (the perimeter of a rectangle), and just wrote:

a. Find the radius.
b. Multiply it by itself.
c. Multiply it by 22.
d. Divide it by 7.
e. Write the label.

(This would be the area of a circle, of course.)

After I did that for all the formulae, he crowed, "Now I'll be able to ace all my tests!" Which means that at least I know I'm doing my job.

As for Lug Wrench . . . There's something sweetly encouraging about a little boy whose idea of a good deal is doing all his extra drills in exchange for another story of a saint.

He prefers to hear about the martyrs--especially those who died really gory deaths--but I'm going to chalk that up to his being a normal little boy.

Since I don't have enough students to be interesting, let me tell you about one whom I occasionally "borrow" from another tutor at XYZ Tutorial Centre.

Let's give him a Transformer name rather than a G.I. Joe name: Clonus Magnus!

A few weeks ago, he had to write a poem for either Science class or English class about pollution. When his tutor was busy with someone else at their table, he called out:

"Teacher Enbrethiliel, what is something that can't be recycled . . ."

Assuming his pause was the end of the question, I answered, "Styrofoam."

Then he went on: "--and that rhymes with 'live'?"

When I was done laughing at the absurdity of it all, I tried to tell him that that is no way to write a poem . . . but by that time, he was already done with his assignment.

Something else Clonus Magnus likes to do is borrow the notebook in which I draft my Top 5 Lists, my Alphabet Assignments, and my Tournament Brackets (all three of which are my favourite genres of almost-poetry). When he's done with his homework, he spends the rest of his time at the centre making lists of his own.

He and I have two very different approaches when it comes to list making. I assume that there is room for only a few stones in my little sack, while he won't even let the sky be the limit. For instance, when I asked him to name five things he would want with him on a deserted island, his first thing he thought of was: "A big refrigerator that never runs out of food!"

Finally, the following address is the best thing I've read about education in a long, long time:

Speaking of a long, long time . . . yes, we do need to get back to the Middle Ages. The medievals were on to many things and our own methods of education do not make us equal to any of it.

(See the rest of this week's Thursday Thirteen roundup.)


Jocelyne said...

That Dorothy Sayers piece is brilliant. All of it. But this part really made me laugh:

It will, doubtless, be objected that to encourage young persons at the Pert age to browbeat, correct, and argue with their elders will render them perfectly intolerable. My answer is that children of that age are intolerable anyhow; and that their natural argumentativeness may just as well be canalized to good purpose as allowed to run away into the sands. It may, indeed, be rather less obtrusive at home if it is disciplined in school; and anyhow, elders who have abandoned the wholesome principle that children should be seen and not heard have no one to blame but themselves.

berenike said...

Have you come across When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit?

marvellous book.

Grandma said...

A Rose For Emily, caused a flashback to my senior English class. I hated that story and struggled with writing the mandatory paper on it. But obviously, it made an impression, because I still remember it after all these years. I can't remember anything else I read in that class.

My TT: Translatable

Enbrethiliel said...


Jocelyn: I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Berenike: No, I've never heard of it, but now I can keep an eye peeled for it.

Grandma: Funnily enough, Noxxtis' tutor said pretty much the same thing! She remembers reading A Rose for Emily and not liking it at all, but can't remember anything about the story itself.

jehara said...

I am still stuck on the first point about being asked to increase a student's grade.

Enbrethiliel said...


I know, right???

Maybe I should have saved the best/worst for last?

If you ask other teachers, however, you'll see that "grades inflation" is a more common practice than one might think. After half a year of full-time teaching, I just started handing out slightly higher marks for essays and projects than I normally would, because I knew it would save time later on.

Michael said...

You didn't happen to get the Dorothy Sayers link from an article I wrote about 8 years ago, did you? Without acknowledgement? Shame on you! :-)

It is great stuff. Something that is almost required reading for all American home-schoolers.

Noxxtis said...

Clonus Magnus is my cousin! XDDDDD

T_T That really sucks about Fire Storm's mom; completely unfair D8<
It's really cool though that Lug Wrench enjoys Saint stories~ Cute too. :3

And would you mind if I used Dorothy Sayers' essay as a reference this piece I'm working on for English class? Thanks and...good luck with your teaching. XD

Enbrethiliel said...


Michael: I actually got it very recently, from another blog. =)

Noxxtis: Go ahead and use it! It's available for anyone to read and learn from, and the more people who know about it, the better!

Have you seen the second comment and link I left under your Top 5 Female Vampires post?