13 September, 2012

Lessons with Kisha

I've started tutoring.

That's quite surprising for two reasons. One, I'm not really qualified and particularly strong in subjects that kids usually seem to need help with; maths, chemistry, biology, french. My strengths are reading and writing. Not particularly practical.
And two, I'm rather intimidated by kids. Especially the American kind.

But I'm not good at saying no, so when one of my favourite professors called up and asked if I'd tutor her daughter because the tutor she'd arranged previously had left her suddenly, I said yes.

Luckily, the girl I'm tutoring is very good at math and doesn't really enjoy writing - so I'd actually be a useful tutor. And though she's grown up and been educated in America, she isn't really American. She's Indian. Sort of.
More importantly, though, her mom - a tiny, intense, inspiring, sometimes terrifying professor of sociology - is Indian, and has ensured her daughter has something that most American children do not; respect for elders.

Last week was my first tutoring session with Kisha* and before I picked her up from choir practice, Dr. Samuel* came to me with instructions.
"I've told her she's to listen to you, you're the boss, ok?"
"No, this will work out wonderfully. I'm glad it's you, you know. You can be hard on her, none of this American nonsense."
She was especially delighted that I came from a country and family that is fairly strict with it's children. She obviously has greater belief in my backbone than I do.

Despite my fears, the tutoring session went well. I managed to be helpful, not too boring (I hope) and made the effort to be more conversant than I usually am with strangers, even little kid strangers. And Kisha is easy to be with; she's bright (in intellect and personality) and brimming with confidence. Quite the opposite of me. Actually, I think our different personalities and working styles will complement each other in this situation. She is quick, clever and sometimes careless, with a ready answer to any question, a propensity to distraction (even in the library) and the ability to whiz through math problems at break-neck speed. Not to mention she knows how to operate a Mac computer. I am slow, thoughtful, quiet and freakishly-neat, and I revert to three-year old ignorance when confronted with a Mac. I'm not too gifted in the mathematics area either; I was still double-checking my mental answer to number 2 when she was starting number six, the pencil-numbers scrawling speedily across the page.

The only place I was able to catch a mistake of hers was in the word problems, where she didn't read a question carefully enough to understand what it was asking. I was secretly exultant when I corrected her mistake (after I'd read through it 3 times while she was doing number 35). Then I remembered it was grade 7 math and she was 12-years-old. It's quite humbling to be beaten by a 12-year-old in math.

I have another lesson with Kisha this weekend. By the end of the year I expect both of us will have grown a little; Kisha will be neater and more organized and able to express herself more clearly in writing assignments. I probably won't be any better at math, but I'll learn all sorts of things about Macs. And I'll be kept humble every step of the way.

*I'm not using real names here, just out of respect, not because I'm saying anything I think should be kept private


  1. So cool! You're perfect for the job... :)

  2. I am so glad you were able to catch that word problem - I would have had to sit back and say "Ok, if you say so."


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