Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deaf and Mental but Tutoring Anyway!

Though it was several millennia ago that my esteemed shrink Dr. Mars suggested I break through my solipsistic shell just long enough to, you know, volunteer--I didn't do it until last December.

Let me just point out that I’d made several attempts to do so before that but it was either too late to get into the program I wanted (helping grammar school kids who have trouble reading) or I was still too mental to think I could do it. But after a few months of working out at Gym Nosferatu three times a week (after which my triceps still pool on the floor, thanks) I figured I could do anything.

I don’t know what I pictured exactly, but I don’t think it was Me being Paired with a Boy. Most of the other tutors got paired with Girls, sweet pliable girls who actually hug them (since they too are girls, albeit old ones) to show their gratitude and affection. I, on the other hand, got paired with Otis.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Otis—indeed, he’s completely adorable. And if he didn’t spend our 45 minutes together vrooming his  eraser back and forth on our desk, he’d be even more so. Whenever I ask him to stop with the vroom, he collapses like Greta Garbo’s Camille and complains of fatigue. When I ask him to straighten up and please focus, he insists he has to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, none of the other tutees do any of this, be they the pink-cupcake girls or his own fellow boys. In fact, if  Otis (who's in the first grade) hadn’t told me the first day we met just how much he loved Dr. Seuss, I’m not even sure I could have continued.

But he did, so I could.

Here are just three examples of how I've advised Young Otis so far:

1.  It’s only fair to read all the books that weren’t so lucky as to have Dr. Seuss be their author exactly as if they had been so lucky, i.e., with the same fervent zeal and zesty expression. And, yes, this includes the incredibly boring Yip and Yap Take a Nap.

2.  You can sound out a word as a Buh and an Og but only if you go back immediately to smash them together into a bog. No matter how much you think you don’t want to, you must smash it, smash it, and smash it again! As for what a bog is, all I can say is one finds them outdoors, or indoors while reading a Sherlock Holmes novel.

3.  No one but U wants to hang out with Q and U will never leave Q alone. Except in Iraq but that is for later.

Today our lesson (which, lest you think tutors make it all up, are provided for us in clear plastic packets) was to be about words that have double consonants. Which is how I found out he didn’t know what a consonant was, which is how I found out he did not know his vowels.

A, E, I, O, U and, yes, sometimes Y!---I made him say it a million times. After which I said, “Hello there, Otis, my name is Miss B, so what the heck am I--some kind of vowel?” I did this 26 times, five and sometimes six of which I very naturally did turn out to be some kind of vowel.

When I asked him how many vowels his own actual name had, and he told me two, my craven heart sang. When I asked how many consonants (and reminded him that everyone who wasn’t a vowel had no choice but to be one) and he said two again, it performed a whole opera. But will he remember all this next week?  That, for now, is the question.

“He just might remember you later,” says Dr. Mars to keep me encouraged. “I remember who taught me to read.”

“So do I,” I say. “But I didn’t teach him. I’m just reinforcing.”

“Don’t underestimate your impact,” he says.

Isn't he great?  I mean, isn't he really? Such fabulous doctors, both Mars and Seuss.


  1. "Don't underestimate your impact."
    Those are pretty much words to live by, chickpea.

    And HAH! I know what you mean about never thinking you'll be tutoring a boy -- but for some reason, when I taught reading at a school for kids with learning disabilities, I had seventeen boys.

    And two girls.

    It was a little unnerving at first. Go, you!

  2. Hey, it gets you out of the house on a regular basis, yeah?

  3. Very cute story!! (Glad I have dogs...!)

  4. Aw, that's cool. My shy husband tutored a kid for most of a year and clearly had an impact. Enjoy the moments!

  5. You're inspirational, Ms. G ... I'm proud o' you!

  6. Well look at you being all outer-directed! Kudos.