Saturday, February 28, 2015

"More Than Tutoring," Ch. 20, What Cost

During my nearly ten years of tutoring, many problems arose for some of my students. It is not at all surprising that problems abound when you think of the barriers presented by not knowing our language, our laws, or our cultural expectations. Many of my lessons specifically addressed these very stressed-filled dilemmas for them, on a personal, not classroom, level.

My Chinese students had an extended support system, so seldom needed my help outside class; not so for many from various other cultures. Despite LVA’s advisement and rules for not getting involved in their personal lives, I often did. Most of my students became my friends; some of them, I expect, will be my friends for the rest of my life. It isn’t in me to let friends flounder when I have the means to help.

I, and most other tutors, mentored almost as much as we taught English. I’ve talked to doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, school principals, teachers, lawyers, policeman, sheriffs, social workers, landlords, and butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers (okay, no candlestick-makers) on behalf of my students. I’ve advised on dress codes, manners, résumés, spousal abuse, and helped fill out more damned forms than I care to remember. I learned how to read electric meters so I could help a student pass his meter-reading test. I helped a dad write a letter to his son. Their problems were endless and often personal, and I helped guide them when they asked, regardless of the rules against personal involvement.

Over the years, I tutored students from every walk of life, from all educational and economic backgrounds, from all major religions, and from at least twenty different countries. What an education I got! Every tutor I’ve talked to agrees we learn more than our students do. As much as it may seem I’m blowing my own horn (I said “I” an awful lot in the preceding paragraphs), I’m not. I’m grateful for every moment, because every moment was a much-valued learning experience…. Imagine how empty my life would have been without knowing how to read an electric meter! It nearly killed me to leave.


We are serializing here Judy Axtell's What Cost: A Skeptic's Memoir, published by Outskirts Press and available in paperback through Outskirts and Amazon and other on-line booksellers. I am proud to have been coach and editor for the book.

See also, my site

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