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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.


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.
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:38 am (UTC)
sydney grammar, hey? what was that like?
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC)
For me, it was just like going to school. Only school I ever had.
But that said, I had some great fellow students - it was a school that was quite happy to nurture excentricism... I knew many of the Chaser boys (a number of whom were 2 or 3 years behind me), and a bunch of people in the experimental music scene went there. It had a great music department, so that was good for me.

On the other hand, I was about as anti-competitive as a kid could be, and thus I often didn't do that well (at least in context), found that many of my more studious friends strangely stopped being my friends around exam time, etc. Still did embarrassingly well in the HSC, but yeah.
And while there were some good teachers, there were plenty of crap ones, just like anywhere else - and not just in the English dept (which I'm sure had some fine ones too). It's more about the peer group, I guess, and the fact that it's a pretty highly selective school.

So, in summary: weird, but not that weird, had its ups and downs. At least I had youth orchestras and music camps all through school, so I had friends outside of school, and gasp came across girls... etc...
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC)
excentricism -> eccentricism
Sep. 25th, 2007 07:57 am (UTC)
i think many i expected more fine china in this recounting ;)
Sep. 25th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)
Haha, yes, well it's a private school, but by no means that expensive. Somewhere like Kings School or probably even Cranbook and Barker and suchlike are probably quite a bit moreso (well I know Kings is...)