I’ve started tutoring an eleven year old, to help him with his English so that he can get into a good secondary school or something. He’s not stupid, and his English isn’t all that bad, but it can certainly be tightened up, so that’s what I’m getting drafted in to do. That’s not really what I’m going to be talking about; the thing that it’s really opened my eyes to is that teaching is actually pretty hard.
I’ve done teaching before. When I was sixteen I used to help out at a local primary school as a teacher’s aide, working with the… challenged kids to help them progress from stabbing the paper to actually forming coherent sentences. It was fun and rewarding and all that, but I was given pretty clear structure from the teachers so it wasn’t all that easy to stray and screw up. Not to mention it required little more than a supervisory role from myself. So yeah, that doesn’t count.
And then, on my Gap Year, I spent some time in India working as what I thought was another aide role, but turned out to taking entire classes of Indian kids, only a handful of whom could speak any English. Of course, rather than hinder my ability to teach, it actually kind of made it easier, albeit reducing my interaction with them to that employed by space-farers initiating first contact. ME PHILL. YOU? THIS SKY. THIS GROUND. THIS HELICOPTER. It basically involved a lot of gesticulating, a lot of really badly drawn maps of England and a bunch of kids screaing QUEEN at the top of their lungs and laughing at me. Fun times.
This, on the other hand, is different. It’s one on one, for a start, which puts me on the spotlight just as much as him. I can’t just start talking in random vagueities, safe in the knowledge that none of the kids is going to say anything, because they’re only paying half attention. If I don’t say something that he can understand, he’s going to say something. And I’m going to have to explain why I’m saying that sentence structure is a lot like a Happy Meal, or whatever half baked metaphor I’m struggling to articulate.
The other thing is that I need a plan. I need to be able to establish where he is, where he needs to be, and how to get him there. Which is hardly something I’m used to, and it’s a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I’m not saying that I struggled today, or I don’t think I can do it, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to breeze through it, which is something that I was thinking beforehand. Edit a bit of his work, point out the mistakes, and attempt to talk about some football with him in a futile effort to win the favour of a child. No, this is going to require a bit more of a.. concerted approach.
And, oddly, that’s made me much more interested in actually doing this job. Not in a professional capacity, but having to actively engage, rather than just show up and earn whatever I’m being paid an hour by sitting with some kid pointing out where capital letters need to be, is actually something to look forward to. I might just be able to help him out some, too, which’d be nice.
And the best part? It’s made me realise that I’m pretty fucking good at grammar and punctuation. I own the apostrophe. Semi-colons are a breeze. It all makes sense to me, and talking it through with him is making me understand my own grammatical rules better. And that’s pretty awesome.