Saturday, May 1, 2010

The starfish story

Two of everything, including choices.

Originally posted on my tumblr, but I thought I would post it again here.

“There once was a little boy and his father walking along the beach. On the beach was scattered thousands and thousands of starfish, drying out in the sun and dying. The little boy started picking up one starfish at a time, throwing them back into the ocean and saving their lives.

‘Why are you doing that?’ asked the father, ‘You can’t save them all.’

‘No, but I can save this one.’ replied the little boy.”

I am in a quandary tonight. And not only because I had to look up the word “quandary” to make sure I’m using it correctly. One of my tutoring students does really well when I’m teaching her during our sessions. She gets free tutoring through the NCLB tutoring program for low-performing, low-ses families through her school district.

We had a session tonight. Her mother gave me an update. She is getting F’s in math at school. It really shocked me because from what I know of her performance during tutoring, she really should be pulling something closer to a C.

Q) Why on earth is she getting straight F’s in school when she’s proven herself to know the material during tutoring? A) There are many reasons. I only know of two: 1) she’s not the most organized person in the world, 2) she has low self-confidence, believes she can’t do it, and thus does not even try.

I want to propose to my boss at the tutoring company to offer her tutoring at a discounted rate. I, of course, would be taking a proportionately discounted hourly pay too. I want to work with her on her actual homework (she says she doesn’t have any - which is a lie; I know her school’s standards) instead of the stupid remedial curriculum NCLB tutoring mandates as the sole material for her. I want to boost her confidence in school so that she can stay afloat on her own means in a sea of students (she’s in 8th grade; the sea will be bigger in high school) rather than rely on one-on-one time with a tutor for the rest of her life. I’m pretty sure my boss will agree to this proposal. She still gets a client.


I want to take an NET job offer. I declined the job at first because I had already committed to tutoring this girl (she had two other tutors drop her before I came along - not good). The NET position starts IMMEDIATELY. As far as I know, it is still open. I was thinking of asking for it again once I’m finished with my obligations to this student. There is only a week of free tutoring left for her.

Thus, the quandary. Shall I let this starfish go, and save myself, one of many teacher-starfishes in Cali who are looking for full-time positions? Or should I pick the starfish up and toss it back into the ocean? Is the starfish alive enough to be resuscitated? Or will it get washed back onto dry land again and die later, and my sacrifice wasted?

I shall sleep on it.


Ricochet said...

We do free tutoring at the school. I am tutoring a girl I taught last year (bit not this year) who is failing abysmally.

We spent the first 3 hours doing nothing more than pulling all of the papers out of her bookbag and putting them in order.

She was organized last year - this year she has fallen apart. But you can't function (or at least a failing student cannot) without some sense of order.

Having said that: remember on airplanes they tell the parents put your air mask on first? You cannot help other people if you do not help yourself first.

It may seem like throwing her away. But what good do you do her if you are worried about your own future?

Ask for a continuance for a week. But take the job anyway if they say no.

bun2bon said...

Thanks for the perspective. Yeah. One can only do as much as one can. After that, it's time to let go.