31 July 2008

Two ways to end the contract

When hiring a tutor, a specific outline of duties accompany every contract signing. The end of that contract comes in two ways: success and time, and both are bittersweet.

My first contract termination occurred because I was successful. The student can now understand and perform long division by way of comprehending subtraction. One hour and my services are no longer necessary.

I was so successful in teaching a child to read that goals were extended to include other subjects, and further reaches, until the child could take no more. This was a difficult deal to close because I knew he was now on the quick and dusty path to success in all his schoolwork, but we had a good relationship that I would miss. I still think of exercises he would respond well to.

On the other hand, time is a factor for many students. My contract does not state: "please teach this idea", it states, "work on this subject until". "Until school lets out", and as the student walked out the door I watched months of progress slip away one Caribbean cruise at a time. Hopefully, I will be called back at the end of the summer, when people remember why they called me in the first place.

Or, "until I return home", which is on the other side of the globe. Simply fitting well with a student does not guarantee success; there must be repetition, connection, correction, listening, showing, using. But he will not stay forever. Just think of how much of the English Language I could teach him if I had forever. The thought is ridiculous, yet I still dread the end of the contract.

A third ending might present itself in the course of the scriptwriting, something to the effect of, "You are not free." The idea that I have made something I would do anyway my career is a thought that has chewed many a pencil, preferably the kind without yellow paint. I do, however, prefer to tell myself that this is a hiatus, not a termination. The painful reality of losing the student never goes away, though.

People are not perpetually ignorant. Once they are taught, they know it. A teacher keeping you in the dark so you will have to keep coming back is like a chiropractor cracking you back just enough to get you to walk out the door but not enough to keep you without his services. I strive to do my job well. I believe in the massive capabilities of the human mind, and I believe that I have the ability to get any given mind to learn.

The curse of the tutor, however, is that once the desired learning is learned or time has passed, its usefulness is expired. Teachers watching their students graduate must feel like this. "But there's so much you don't know yet!" we cry out...

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