Saying goodbye

I don’t think that I mentioned that I finished my last day as a tutor one week ago tomorrow did I?

I think that I’ve commented in both blogs about my disillusionment with our public school system and my place in it as a tutor for students set upon college who need organizational and critical thinking skills to have even a glimmer of reaching their goals.

Now that I am taking care of the granddaughter five days per week since her mom is in training and transition before starting her new job I had to resign my tutoring position. Friday was my last day.

Do you remember my complaints? Do you remember my questioning the reasons for being a tutor, the inconceivable notion that I was making any difference at all?

My last day was one of surprise and a heartwarming acceptance on my part that just maybe, for a few of these kids, I did make some impact.

A few of my eighth graders met me half way to their classroom with one in particular stressing just how much she didn’t want me to go. Granted, much of her demonstration was the overwrought act of a dramatic teen girl, but behind it I understood that she was sincere. I had worked with her before earlier in the year. She is a smart, sweet and engaging girl who has a great sense of humor and was fun to challenge somewhat in a teasing, open bantering way. One of my male students who is truly either going to be President one day, or writing books on existentialism, or both, shook my hand solemnly when the class was over. He, I found out about one week ago, has chosen not to return to the program next year and I think he will do just fine.

The ninth grade class was just embarrassing and it was not because of the students. The teacher was rather demonstrative in her directions to the class to say goodbye. I got a rousing rendition of For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow while being asked to stand in front of the room, numerous cards with sentiments from the students, and a wavy finger sort of tunnel send off when the class was over. Way too over the top and unnecessary. The cards were nice however.

The tenth grade class was the least eventful as an entire class goes. I had aligned with one particular group for most of this year and really not worked with many others in this classroom. This group was the one in which I felt like I was wearing a sign around my neck that said TREAT ME LIKE YOUR MOM the entire time I worked with them. Ultimately they worked well together and so I let them get away with some behaviors that weren’t exactly responsible or on task. I also learned a lot from them about their opinions of this program. I was told by two of them that I was the best tutor that they had ever had. I suspect that comment had something to do with my rather laissez-faire attitude. The lone young lady of the group was incredibly sincere when she said goodbye in her card and with a hug. I liked her a lot, maybe because I saw some hints of my youngest daughter in her, maybe simply because I see potential there.

Finally, the eleventh grade classroom actually had organized a small goodbye party. I tried to visit with the kids that I had worked with the most. It’s sort of an awkward situation at that age. None of the drama like the 8th grade girl as these are young adults who must present a certain image for their peers. Again, I had some nice comments and a few of the students actually approached me with a hug goodbye. One in fact surprised me with this gesture as I thought she was often ticked off at me when I called her on some of her behavior and did not grade her as high as she expected.

So all in all I did touch something in some of these students. Most struck me as really pretty great kids. I admit to finding a few hard to work with attitude wise. That’s mostly because I could see potential in every single one of the kids I worked with but some were missing it in themselves and a few will ultimately never find the right road. I watched some excel from day one and saw many who improved greatly over the year. Those were the real successes, the ones I feel personally good about. The ones that I hope have caught a spark and will work hard not to let it be extinguished.

Will I go back in the fall?

At about one month into this job I swore that I wouldn’t return. Nothing could make me put up with this program and all its inadequacy past this first year. As time went on and I realized that my job was limited by administrative policy, failed systems, and disorganization I took on a new attitude. I knew I couldn’t change the world or even a corner of it. But I could be there and present and just give some time. Maybe that would be enough.

Go to each school on my assigned day, do the best that I could, grow some relationships with these kids, pass on some knowledge, some challenges, instill some pride and recognition for achievements and always make them believe that I believe. In them. In their potential. In who they are and where they want to go.

Am I going back in the fall? Right now I’ll leave it open. I may have the granddaughter more, or I may have her less. I’m not as adamant as I was a few months ago about nixing a complete return, but also I have said my goodbyes. It might be best to leave it at that.


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