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Volunteering

The first hour of volunteering was kinda stressful last night. The librarian hasn’t found a second person for Wednesday nights so I’m there all by myself and there were like 6 or 7 kids in there at one point last night, all pulling me in different directions and the ones that I wasn’t helping at a given time were being loud jack-asses. I’m not very good at disciplining, or getting them to focus, and they try harder trying to manipulate me into just giving them the answer than they do on their homework. Tutoring kids is a fucking battle of wits and strategy. I’m trying to get them to think and they are fighting tooth and nail against actually learning. It wasn’t like this when I was tutoring an adult. That was way easier, though getting him to focus was often difficult too, but at least he was trying and wanted to learn how to write properly.

 

That’s the other interesting thing about this gig. I was most worried about helping with math and looking forward to helping in English (sharing my passion) but it turns out helping them with math is both easier and better for me. First of all, I have lost almost all basic arithmetic as I have been allowed to use a calculator in school since, oh 1996. Since I’ve been volunteering I’ve re-learned how to do long division, percentages, and even bits of my multiplication table. Not only because I might be explaining it to them, but also because it’s embarrassing to have a 6th grader note how long it takes me to calculate in my head basic addition and subtraction, so being put on the spot kinda sharpens my game.

 

Helping in English homework is actually harder (though more rewarding for me personally.) I really like helping kids write essays, because they seem so daunted by the task and I love sharing with them that it’s not that hard if you take it step by step. They really fight me on writing an outline and stuff and just want to write whatever sentence that comes to mind with no flow of ideas and I’m trying to instill good habits and structure in essay writing. (Though I ,too, fought writing outlines kicking and screaming until college when I realized it was necessary, helpful and required far fewer re-writes.) But then for some reason reading comprehension is a definite area where the kids just want me to give them the answers and do the work for them. I also have to be careful with my bias because reading comprehension has always been a natural ability, something I always scored well on in school. So when the kid hands me an assignment of “Read the article and summarize,” I express, that’s a piece of cake just read it and say in your own words what it’s talking about. But I need to remember that for a lot of the kids there, English is their second language and I need to put it in perspective (“Could I read an article in French and summarize in French? Probably not.”) Still, some fight so hard. I read their first question of their homework to find out they haven’t even read what they are supposed to have read to answer the bloody question. They don’t want help they just want answers! Example, kid reading the Odyssey

Mir: Okay so the question is asking, where is Odysseus leaving from?

Kid: *shrugs* I don’t know.

Mir: Well have you read it?

Kid: No. Not yet.

Mir: Well I’m not doing it for you. It’s in the text clear as day, read it and you’ll find the answer.

 

Grrr. Kids these days, man.

Oh well it’s good experience. I know I don’t want to be a teacher but I think the opportunity of teaching kids where English is their second language is good experience if say I’m desperate to go abroad and do one of those stipend teaching English programs. It’s a possible plan b or c to not getting into, or not being able to get funding for, grad school. Keeping my options open. :) Oh yeah and making Seattle U and Barack proud for giving back to the community and shit.

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