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Scenes from a Movie Not Yet Made

I am currently having the strangest experience with one of my students: his english teacher is campaigning against my presence.

I've never met her, the teacher that is, so it could be that the second hand information I hear is a little different to the truth. You've got to wonder how different it is, though, given the latest story, where the principal of the school stopped the guy and said, "I hear you're a little confused on who you should listen to, your english teacher or your tutor." At this point he, I imagined, paused. Gave that look that an adult in pants and shirt and tie and grey, balding hair does. I'm projecting my own principal from years ago on him, who was a very stern man, just so you know. Finally, it is said that he said, "I would listen to your english teacher. She has over thirty years experience and is the head of the department."

Well, yes, that's a good point.

Except, of course, that he can't write an essay, and whose fault is that?

The problem developed after the trial HSC, where M, the student, who is in the advance course, and topping his year, didn't do as well as he should have. He'd come to me a week before and, though it's my usual kind of thing to check essays first up for structure, I didn't here. He was top of the year. It was a week from his trials. There were other things to worry about. Now, imagine my surprise when, after the exam, I saw his essays, and the paragraphs, rather than being made of one structured argument, were broken into sentences that identified techniques, and which listed six or seven as you might write a short answer, and then moved onto another 'paragraph' after, to do the same. I say 'paragraph' because, hey, they weren't. Now, M, who is quite smart, and understands the work well and can argue quite well outside the essay, has been writing like this for the entire year, and this same teacher has said nothing. Not one thing. But the first thing I said, upon seeing it, was that it had to be changed, and proceeded to show him various essays from my other students in year twelve, as well as various books of essays, to prove why he should change it.

Of course, what happened then, is that he walked into school and asked his head teacher if his essay structure was wrong, and she said no, it was fine. After that, however, she began to ask a lot of questions about me.

"How do you know he's really a tutor," she is reported to have said. "He could just be anyone off the street. Anyone can put an ad in the paper."

This is, of course, quite true. Bit of advice for anyone if they want to start privately tutoring students, I might add.

She says more, however. To listen to M, he can't walk into his english class without his 'tutor' being brought up, though I am sure this is not the case. Part of the problem, however, is he is reportedly the only student in this school with an english tutor. It's a small, public school which gets scaled down a lot in the HSC, and which is often in the paper for its riots, and the teachers within it are, from what I can gather, a bit on the insecure side because of the violence. Or at least, this particular teacher is. Her resentment of my presence is now, with three weeks to the actual HSC, which for those not in NSW, is the final exam of year 12, and the thing that all students stress on for getting into University, and which makes it a kind of big deal for them... his final weeks has been spent with an english teacher who, in response to every choice he makes regarding his preparation, begins a sentence with, "Did your tutor tell you to do this?" She attacks the choices he makes for external texts, and gives him pieces of creative writing with the specific instructions not to show his tutor, as if, you know, she's giving him some kind of huge secret in the five hundred word stories written by her 'son'. Yes, son. Seriously. Guess who I think they're written by? Then there's the principal stopping. I'm sure it doesn't take much for anyone reading this to figure that M spends a week stressed out and confused, none of which is beneficial to him with the time he has before his exams, and which I have nothing to say but, "Look, you've just got to ignore that shit and prepare your work. If you want to use the old essay structure, that's fine--but I can't tell you it will be marked well, not when you compare it to what other students will be doing."

He is, fortunately, still planning to use the new essay structure. Having been awaken to the fact that he doesn't write like anyone else, he can see it everywhere now, but especially in trial HSC books and on the essays on the boredofstudies site. Also, the comments from his previous english teacher--who left the school, but who he was in touch with at the beginning of the year--make more sense.

But still, it's pretty fucked up.

Now, normally, when you're a tutor, you work with the way the teacher prepares the class and the subjects. Every teacher does it differently, and the goal, for a good tutor--or so I figure--is to not go against the way that the five day a week teacher wants to prepare his or her class, but to build upon it, and to allow for more detail on what is done in class, and for more time to be spent one on one on structural writing, techniques, and so forth. It can be a bit of a balancing act, especially if the teacher and student don't get along, but the goal of the tutor is not to undermine the teacher--why would it? It's a quick way to cause the student you've got stress, and to lose some cash, cause there's no way you win that battle. Parents will kick you to the curb before they kick a school. Of course, none of this is to say I have anything to do with teachers--I don't. I deal with the student and the students needs.

And you know what?

That's still the case here, really.

But still, for a brown sack, like the one you use to drown kittens.

Comments

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ironed_orchid
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:20 am (UTC)
It sounds like she is really threatened by having someone from outside criticize her techniques.

The year 12 students I tutored needed a tutor because they didn't understand essay writing and argument by the time they got to year 12, and their teachers didn't have (or take) the time to correct them. So it was a case of the current teacher telling them they needed to improve, and the tutor (me) helping them do that by showing them how to organize their ideas into an essay.

It sounds like that's what you are doing with this student, but because she hadn't spotted that there was a problem before the exams, she feels that her teaching is under attack.

And so it should be.
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:37 am (UTC)
yeah, i figure that's what it is. and seriously, the majority of tutoring for year 12 is essentially helping them organise their ideas into an essay. i reckon 95% of what i do is simply structural.
frogworth
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:22 am (UTC)
Bad teachers are often touchy about being shown up... Funny that. I had consistently awful English teachers all the way through high school (and, ahem, I went to Sydney Grammar...) and they were entirely displeased by the help I got from my Mum (who teaches linguistics at UNSW mind you). Dickheads.
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:38 am (UTC)
sydney grammar, hey? what was that like?
(no subject) - frogworth - Sep. 25th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - frogworth - Sep. 25th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 07:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - frogworth - Sep. 25th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC) - Expand
angriest
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:37 am (UTC)
Ah crappy English teachers. I want to find the English teacher in Year 8 who told me I'd never get anywhere academically and shout "I've taught English to university students, you fucker!!"
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:39 am (UTC)
my favourite is the one who told me i wrote to good and so i must've copied it. i'd send her books if i cared enough.
wendy_waring
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:43 am (UTC)
I had to bring in hefty grammar tomes to a first-year English class at a sandstone university in Perth which shall remain nameless...to prove to several students that the neuter pronoun 'its' had no apostrophe. Said students all had the same high school English teacher, who had drilled them in this mistake.

benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:57 am (UTC)
nice to see the book came in handy, though, huh?
(no subject) - wendy_waring - Sep. 25th, 2007 10:56 am (UTC) - Expand
lyndarama
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC)
Mmn: having taught at the same school (albeit the version with Girls in the title) I'd just like to chuck in that the teacher is teaching the student how to write an essay so that the HSC examiners will look upon it favourably.

Whether the essay structure etc is good or bad is immaterial to the greater goal of 'appeasing HSC examiners'. It wouldn't matter if your mum was the Dean of Linguistics at Oxford; she's not an HSC examiner. Stupid but true.

The good news is that when they get to university people like me get to teach them the 'correct' way to write a decent essay.

That said, bagging out the kid's tutor in front of the class (where the kid's tutor isn't even there and therefore it is just the poor kid getting the bagging) is a shameful way to express her own inadequacies...
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
Mmn: having taught at the same school (albeit the version with Girls in the title) I'd just like to chuck in that the teacher is teaching the student how to write an essay so that the HSC examiners will look upon it favourably.

i really have no idea how she could possibly think that. i gotta run, but when i get back, i'll show you how she's got them to write--all it's going to do is get them marked down a lot.

but yes, i do see your point. usually i'd agree with you entirely, but in this case, i got no idea how it could be anything bad a way to lose marks.
(no subject) - lyndarama - Sep. 25th, 2007 08:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lyndarama - Sep. 26th, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - simplykathryn - Sep. 25th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
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benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC)
hmm. you know, i'm not worried about that, but i think i ought to know better for the privacy of others, so i'll delete that last line. and your first reply, too :)
(no subject) - ataxi - Sep. 25th, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
shadowsandice
Sep. 25th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
....I don't remember being taught how to structure an essay, actually. I just...did it.
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC)
i learnt in uni, really--but i think the idea is you're meant to gradually learn through the years.

schools way different now than we us old folk were in it, anyway ;)
(no subject) - shadowsandice - Sep. 25th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 12:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shadowsandice - Sep. 25th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shadowsandice - Sep. 25th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
kazzibee
Sep. 25th, 2007 09:55 am (UTC)
ooh nassty!

can i be in the movie? i want to be the retarded english teacher! please please please!
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:39 pm (UTC)
you're going to have to audition like everyone else!
(no subject) - kazzibee - Oct. 1st, 2007 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - brendanconnell.wordpress.com - Sep. 25th, 2007 10:53 am (UTC) - Expand
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
yeah, i get that occasionally. like the teacher who told his class that harper lee was a man. he marked an essay down because a girl said she was a woman...
(no subject) - noodles_morgyn - Sep. 26th, 2007 10:57 am (UTC) - Expand
ex_chrisbil
Sep. 25th, 2007 11:05 am (UTC)
As I'm sure others have said (not got time to read all twenty comments at work!) she sounds incredibly threatened, and childish in response.

On the other hand, you sound like an amazingly good tutor, from other posts as well as this, who really gets kids to push themselves and do well. Hats off. All the people who really Hate Ben Peek would probably do well to keep that in mind when they're whining...
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
nah, i'm just an average tutor, really. i have my faults--and it can be really, really hard to keep this stuff up for long term, and five days a week. my side of it is much easier than being in front of a class for five days a week, six hours a day.

this teacher, though, she doesn't sound any good, and it's rare that i actually say that oughtright.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Sep. 25th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Sep. 25th, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Sep. 25th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
yeah, them good teachers are all neat. they need more money and joy, they do.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 26th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC)
Sorry to hear that all of this is happening.

Hope it works out well for the student and you.

---factory farmer
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