I’ve been tutoring kids in the St. Paul public school system since about a year ago, and it’s really quite a lot of fun. Unless my students are acting particularly difficult or crazy or moody, we generally have a great time, and I consider it quite an achievement when I’m able to get a child excited about pre algebra or a chapter book or vocabulary cards.
I think most people would assume that having a lot of experience working with kids means that I have the interaction down to an art. Unfortunately, I feel like I know less about how to interact with children the more that I work with them. This was illustrated especially well during the last few weeks, when I accidentally laid the foundation for a “sex talk” with a student not once, but twice.
Although you might assume it’s an easy subject to avoid, you soon learn that it can actually creep into normal conversation rather unobtrusively, as if you were on the cusp of explaining how the water cycle works, or why a submarine can be crushed under water. I get so in the habit of bringing knowledge to the next step, adding explanation to subjects of interest, that I don’t even realize when we’re suddenly discussing childbirth.
One of my female students, a 2nd grade girl whose mom had triplets last year innocently stated, “I don’t ever want to have kids–they have to cut them out of your stomach!” Without a moment’s reflection (and the necessary hesitation that would have ensued!) I respond with, “Well, you know, Jalu, they don’t always cut babies out of your stomach–they only did that because your mom had three babies at once.” A flash of blush simultaneously crossed my face as I finished my explanation. Oh shit, I thought. I’ve done it now.
“So where DO they COME FROM?!” she asked inquisitively.
“Um… er…” I am now at this point looking straight across the room at the students parents, who are laughing at me for stumbling into this trap so innocently. “Um, I think that someday your parent will explain that to you, Jalu,” I said. And with that, I made a swift redirection of attention back to subtraction with regrouping.
I also tutor students at a public library, and I like to encourage them to bring books that seem interesting to them to read with me for part of our session. The other day I asked my student, a 5th grader, to bring me a chapter book for us to read. What he selected, readers, was more than a little HILARIOUS and perplexing. In fact, I was completely speechless at first, not knowing if he was actually playing a joke on me or not.
Behold his selection:
In the end, I had to gracefully suggest that we find something else that he would like more. But, seriously, is this not the funniest thing you’ve ever seen? If you’re having trouble reading the subtitle, it promises the reader, “Four stories of feral passion”.