When I graduated from grad school last August, I thought that finally I’d be able to hold only one job.  That I’d derive all my income from one salary earned primarily during day-time hours.  This was an aspiration I had held for many years.  You see, I was a preschool assistant teacher for 3 years after college, which barely covered the cost of rent, chocolate chips, and only a few yards of fabric, and left very little for “Just Because” gifts for Mr. Apron, whom I was courting at the time.  So I supplemented my meager earnings (ask any preschool teacher — assistant or otherwise) with other jobs in the evening.  Mostly these were things which landed in my lap.  I taught sewing classes downtown at a friend’s art center after her original sewing teacher flaked, and I taught creative dramatics to kids in grades K-2 at a local performing arts center.  Some weeks I’d teach till 3, then dart off to various locations to teach 90 minutes to 2 hours more.  I was exhausted. 

Looking for a part-time job during grad school, I found a tutoring company.  I thought it would give me the freedom I needed to set my own schedule, and it certainly allowed me to play to my own strengths — academicus nerdias profudus (my Latin Wiley Coyote name).  Over the last three years, I’ve taught 5th grade math skills, SAT, PSAT, study skills, bar mitzvah elocution (ask if you dare), geometry, algebra, pre-calculus, and French.  Again, I thought I’d be down to 1 job when I finished grad school last August, but I had this one student…

My first French student was a 10th grader who, much as I loved her and as well as we got along, did not do her homework between lessons, and for whom I was very much relieved when she switched to Italian in 11th grade for a “fresh start” in a language I did not speak.  My other French student started working with me almost 2 years ago.  She was preparing for the SAT II in French, so we worked for six weeks over the summer, in advance of the fall test.  She ended up not taking it after all (her #1 and #2 choice colleges did not require SAT II), but asked me to stay on during the school year.  And into AP French the year after that, even as I was starting my “real job”.  My tutoring company only has so many French tutors, and my student felt that we had built such a strong rapport it would be foolish to start with a new person. 

Today, we had our final lesson.  Her test is tomorrow.  We both know she’s not going to score the critical 5 on her AP test that would earn her college credit and let her pass out of any language requirement — the test is very hard, and her class has only worked on the essay portions throughout the school year.  The speaking and listening portions she cannot cram for, as they require practice hearing and using the language.  We met for 2.5 hours today.  We worked on grammar, reading comprehension, picture description tasks, and and overall verb review.  And at the end, she gave me a really good hug.  I guess that’s my reward for the last 2 years.  I don’t know how much I improved her grades or helped her comprehension of French grammar, or supported her study skills, but we worked well together.  Once I got used to her obsessive-compulsive routines about highlighting vocab and her stacks of color-coded index cards and other detritus taking over the dining room table, we settled into a routine.  She always let me know what she needed support with, and she planned out our schedule.  She already had great study skills, but needed help organizing the language itself.  I hope I was able to do that.  It’s a little bittersweet for me, that today was our last day.  It signals the end of the tutoring I thought would just be a silly job during grad school (though now I’ve picked up another student it’ll be hard to let go of).  Moving closer towards that one-job ideal, but leaving behind a job that was not so bad.   And a student I’ll definitely miss. 

For her birthday last week, I gave her a zippered pouch I made to keep her index cards in.  I know she’ll use it.

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