Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wordy Wednesdays: Teacher Things

Last May, I started teaching reading and writing for a national tutoring company. I work with students from nearby schools on their grammar and reading comprehension, and I also help high schoolers prepare for the SAT. It's a great day job - so many light years ahead of waiting tables - but it's the most exhausting thing I've ever done. Some days, I feel like such an utter failure. 

When I sit with a student and go over their paper, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to explain why their transitions aren't clear; when I can't remember the difference between future-progressive tense and future-perfect-progressive tense, and my pupil is looking up at me with these big, trusting eyes; when I can't think of a synonym or definition, and I reach for the dictionary; when these things happen, I cannot imagine how full-time teachers do it. 

Seriously. It blows my mind. 

I work with three students at a time - at most. The average public school has 25, 30, even 35 kids to a room. It must seem like a circus. How do they get anything done, ever? When I think about classroom teachers, I feel spoiled. 

But that doesn't quiet the voice in my head that says, "What if you screw these kids up for life?"

I feel so responsible for my students - my heart rises and falls with their progress reports and diagnostic tests. I've cried in the car after more than one shift. Sometimes it seems like it's more trouble than it's worth (I was just looking for a day job!).

Except that there's nothing more important than making sure the next generation of starving artists knows how to properly construct an essay. Or at least, how to use correct pronunciation.

I've been away from teaching for a couple of months (when I do a show, I have to take a hiatus) but I'll be going back soon. When I think about it, my heartbeat quickens - it's back to the grindstone, as they say. The great thing is, my stressful day job has a really important purpose. 

When I'm really overwhelmed, these are some Teacher Things that buoy my spirits:

At our center, when a student comes across a misplaced modifier, they have to illustrate it.

"Sally and Jane walked away with their sandwiches holding hands."
My name in a textbook - and not as a Greek philosopher!

I'm glad June and I could work it out.
A picture our youngest student drew during class - it's me and him at the park.

*single tear*
I'll never understand how kids do it, but somehow all the fighting and frustration is worth it when you're drawn.

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