Posts Tagged ‘teaching’


Well, nothing can save me now.

As I was sitting in the passenger seat of my sister’s vehicle, my seven year old nephew and two and a half year old niece in the back seat, the adult conversation that was taking place in the front was not under exemption of being heard by the younger ones in the back.

I thought that I was having the common decency to lower my voice to a whisper, and only speaking loud enough to where my sister could hear and I didn’t have to repeat myself.

We were having a discussion about someone, and I ended my sentence with the commentary of “What a jackass!”.

To the horror of my own hearing, and most likely my sister, in the back seat came the emulation from the two year old.

The vocal response of “quack whas” that came from my niece’s mouth put my sister and I both in shock and in a fit of hysteria. But neither one of us could figure out which way to take it.

The seven year old knew better. I was anticipating his reply to be “Bad Word! Bad Word!”, but when he heard the adults in the front start to laugh a little bit, then he decided to chime in with his own rendition of “quack whas”. But his version sounds more of an impaired version of “cracked glass” instead of “jackass”.

For the remainder of the evening, the older sibling kept pushing his luck by trying to get the younger one to say it again and again and again. But THIS UNCLE was very fortunate that she never uttered the phrase again. At least not in my presence.

But to hear my two and a half year old niece try to talk is often funny at times. My sister and I often reflect on the time back in June when we were trying to teach her the word “pine cone”, and she kept saying “pine corn”.

Just a couple of months later, she does say it correctly. So now the amusement of “pine corn” is nothing but history.

Now she has a new phrase that she stumbles to say correctly. Perhaps its just a mouthful to her at this point.

“Stop! In la la la la la”. Or to us, “Stop! In the name of the law!”.

I have pondered such implications about the unfortunate English lesson that my niece jumped in on. Of all the things to teach a child, why did it have to be that she’s got the hearing of a bat? Does it show that I do not have any children?? I think it does.

One thing is for sure, as long as its not being repeated to her at home, and as long as I am not saying it again in front of her, she’ll forget all about it soon. I cannot really stop the seven year old nephew though. I’m not sure if he’s been trying to get her to say it again and again. The boy just knows that its “wrong to say” and she is “saying it wrong”.

I knew better though. And it could have been a lot worse. I could have censored myself, instead I chose full throttle language at a greatly diminished volume and she STILL caught on!!


So I’m going to turn down the flames a notch for this particular post.

I find this totally hilarious and sad. Sad because it actually happened.

For the past two years or so, I have been working closely together with a group who is offering services to women who are in need of help. Women who either are single mothers or are struggling to find employment or whatever the case may be.

When this was first offered to me, I declined it. But eventually I would agree to a volunteer position. What I once thought was going to be me helping a few instructors of a local GED instruction class, ended up with being me considered as the “math guru”.

I was assisting others in a class of about ten women or so. These women were looking to advance their education so that either they could go to college or get a job. And that was a wonderful thing. And then one day, during a math session the students were struggling with fractions. Not the easiest thing, I know. But I spoke up and then showed the class a shortcut of how to deal with fraction multiplication and division.

That apparently set me off on a journey that I would soon never forget. Any time the class was going to do math, I took charge. I didn’t mind it too much. I was there for a reason to help these women get their education. And so the job just kind of stuck with me. I was being announced and introduced as the “math guru” or instructor and people were impressed. I even had one woman come up to me asking for help outside of class. Unfortunately for her, that was not something that was tolerated.

Anyways, I did this religiously for over a year, either every day or maybe six days out of the week. It depended on the need. It would be days or nights. I generally tried to contain my instruction during the day and kept it inside of the classroom.

But eventually, I would get burned out. After all, I was a volunteer. I was not receiving any monetary payment for my teaching math. Although I cannot say that I didn’t receive anything at all. I was able to make some contacts in the community and I was also taken care of when I was out of food and was hungry a few times here and there. But there was no weekly check involved. No pay stubs or anything like that to worry about.

Summer came, and I was under a lot of stress because I had been doing this day after day after day after day. Sometimes with doing the job seven days a week, I would beg for a little break.

I would receive that opportunity when another instructor said that he was taking the summer off. And since he was my source of transportation, I too would decide to take off for the summer. It was a great thing for me.

After the summer hiatus, I actually was choosing not to go teach as much. I was willing to teach, but not as much as I had been because of the stress levels. Teachers can get very frustrated with their students when they have been teaching them for so long and it doesn’t seem like the students are making any progress. And that’s how I was feeling. It was the same students day after day. Asking them to solve a math problem that was more complex than 1+1= ? was an absolute situation to the point where I wanted to pull out hair.

So I backed off a bit through the fall and winter. But I still was willing to help. After all this organization was more than willing to help me whenever I truly needed it in life. Therefore I wasn’t completely at the end of my rope where I was just going to tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine.

So gradually, I came to an agreement that I would help out, but only on a tutorial basis. I would deal with maybe one or two of these students, with the supervision of another instructor at my own place, which was more local. It was actually driving me crazy because I was having to rely on someone else so much just to get to the classroom. IF these students were serious enough to want to get their GED, they would have agreed to it.

The idea was more or less approved of, yet students didn’t really take advantage. So by the end of this winter, I wasn’t doing much of any teaching at all.

Now it is summer, and the program to help these women in need continues on. But I get told “your services are no longer needed”. Yep, they were letting me go. Firing me, if you will.

All I could was laugh through the rest of the conversation. Fire me? From what?? It was I who had made the decision to fill my days in trying to help these women out. But it was and always will be a 50/50 situation. I can instruct until I am blue in the face, but the students have to want to learn. (It is my personal opinion that a lot of these women who have been coming to class, don’t want to learn. They’ve been over the same materials over and over again, and they still ‘fail’. I do not believe that it is because they are stupid, I honestly think that some of them can actually pass the GED test. It is just that they have nothing better to do at home and they want to get out of the house. So they sit in my classroom for a few hours and then go home.)

It cannot be said that I am lacking in my teaching ability because I can see when a student has improved whenever under my instructions. But when it comes test time, they sink like a rock, and I think that they are doing it on purpose.

But I get told that I am no longer needed. Like it was a professional setting and they were having to fire me for whatever reason. They wanted to be looked upon because other people were in the room.

Seriously though, CAN you fire someone who is a volunteer? There’s a difference between trying to fire someone and telling someone “You no longer need to come to teach.”

Certainly, this cannot be a disciplinary action. I’ve not disrupted the flow of the program on any level. I think they wanted to hear themselves talk.

So yes, I really thought that it was unnecessary and incredibly stupid. But that’s the way they wanted it and that’s the way it is.

Pretty lame if you asked me. So I have the full time of this summer to either find some place else to work (whether its being paid or volunteering). Clearly the optimal choice would be to find a paying job.

But firing a volunteer, unless they have broken a rule or is not working together with the organization as a whole is just pretty stupid.