How the other half lives

So in addition to teaching full-time, I also do private tutoring on the side for extra money; because believe it or not – teachers make jack. So around October I got hooked up with this private tutoring company that works with families in the New Trier area. I took the job for 2 selfish reasons. Firstly, money. Secondly, networking. The women who own the company work at New Trier and have connections to the area. I’ve been trying unsucessfully to get a job in the Northwest suburbs for 10 years now. Most of the places don’t even bother sending a rejection letter. I just imagine them sitting in an administrative office somewhere getting my application, seeing that I’m from the south side and have worked with disadvantaged kids for 10 years, and then busting into peals of rich-guy evil-sounding laughter.

Seriously though, all of the families that I’ve met through this entire process have been REALLY nice. Which makes it really hard to continue my previously belief that people who don’t have to work hard and have it totally easy are all entitled and snobby. Despite it being my Spring Break, here I am tutoring my little booty off. I got 8 appointments for the next 2 weeks yesterday. So last night was my first session with a new 8th grader. His mom was extremely nice, and apparently worried that her son is having some trouble in school (By the way her idea of ‘trouble in school’ is that he has one C in Science class. She should meet some of my regular students who live in the same apartment buildings as drug dealers and are 3 reading levels behind their grade level). But the best part is her reason for why she thinks he’s struggling – ‘last year when we took a long vacation and lived in Rome for a year, he studied at a British International School. I think British sentence structure is what he got used to and now he’s having trouble adapting back to American writing’. I wish I could take a year-long vacation. This kid has most likely seen more of the world than I have. He’s fluent in Italian, French, and English. He’s got a trust fund that’s bigger than Chicago Public School’s Administrators’ pensions and lives in a house that I can only DREAM of being hired to clean someday. His ‘trouble’ in school is simply that he doesn’t like doing homework. As he told me last night, “Yeah there’s just too much of it & its pretty easy. So I have 16 math problems to do, so I’ll do like 8 then I’ll stop.’ Sweet wealthy woman – your adorable Italian-speaking child is lazy, not stupid. My own mother would have beat me senseless for even implying that finishing my homework was optional. I vididly remember her checking my homework, telling me the answers were right but that it wasn’t neat enough – tearing it up and making me RE-DO it. This kid has it made.

The thing that I find most distrubing about this private tutoring thing though – is not the overwhelming wealth of the families. It’s not that all of their houses look like this:

The most disturbing thing is that the parents hire me, a professional with 2 degrees – to do something that they could easily do. None of these kids are really struggling with school or with homework. Most of them just need someone to validate what they’re doing and/or double check their school work. They need someone to ask how their school day was and what their homework is. If they want to pay me money to sit and hang out with their kid – I’ll gladly take their money. But the fact of the matter is – all they need is for their parent to ask them questions once in a while. I could never imagine hiring someone to do something that I can do myself. Its the equivalent of hiring a repair man to change your light bulb. All it takes is a couple of minutes. I get it – that they want a ‘professional’ opinion. They want a teacher to ‘diagnose’ what they perceive as their child’s trouble in school. When you want the best answers you ask the best people. But when the answer is simply, ‘your child needs someone to check up on them and show they care once in a while’ – there isn’t much you can say other than, “I’ll see you on Thursday. I told him to bring his math book home so we can do the homework together.” No parent wants to hear that they’re not only wasting money, but are basically letting me do their job. So I smile, tell them how great their kid is progressing now that they have help – and take the cheque to the bank. Maybe after another 8 months of this shenanigans I’ll finally have enough saved up to move to an apartment with a dishwasher and perhaps air conditioning and replace my 15-year old mattress.


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