Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I was at Sylvan tonight and the director was on the phone with a parent, and she said, could you do high school chemistry, and I told her that yes, I could probably do it if I had a book, but that it has been 16 years since I've actually used the stuff. The parent was desperate for help and was willing to chance it. So, I'm thinking that someday soon this child will be sitting at my table.

Nope. He came the next hour. (!) I was emotionally unprepared for that. Haha.

It was the strangest sensation, looking over his notes. I have mentioned it before, but it was very much the "I-used-to-be-smart-WHAT-THE-HECK-HAPPENED?" feeling. The material was familiar, tugging on cobwebs in my brain; I knew there was information that was key, but I just couldn't come up with it. For the first 15 minutes he sat and watched me fumble through his textbook trying to get my bearings. I'm pretty sure I was talking to myself. And he just sat there, because he honestly had no idea. He couldn't even really tell you what the model of an atom looked like, so we started there.

And then, I figured out that key piece of information (the atomic number is also the number of electrons) and WHAM! It all made sense again. I took cues from his messy textbooks, highlighted text, and makeshift flashcards that he was a visual learner, so I made it visual. And after 16 years of sitting in my brain unused, I got to exercise my knowledge of how to notate electron configurations. Glory BE!!

And it was incredible to see that light in his brain not just turn on, but GLARE back at me as he made those connections and FINALLY something about high school chemistry made a little bit of sense, even if he wasn't entirely sure how it applied to a greater context.

I was very glad that the outcome was good because I was almost starting to panic that his mother was paying for this emergency tutoring service and that I was wasting their money. Now I'm just thinking that Sylvan needs to pay me more (hint, hint). Haha.

I also want to mention that this brought me back to how I worked my tail off in high school chemistry back in the day. I had a TERRIBLE teacher who was more preoccupied with being pregnant and having cankles (I remember once she stood up in front of the class and said, "Please don't look at my feet." Of course, the first thing the 30 of us did was look at her extremely bloated/swollen feet. I don't think we would have even noticed if she hadn't said anything.) than teaching chemistry. And I had a different teacher than my other friends (except one) and their teacher was so easy. Life just wasn't fair back then. But Lauri and I kicked some chemistry butt and made As in our class. The only two As. Rock on. I'm still very proud of that achievement.

And I'm feelin' good tonight.



Craig-Jen said...

Wow! Good for you! I hope that's not Sylvan's practice though...the poor teachers!

And the first thing I thought of was, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader" (singing the song in my head...)

Beaver said...

No, no. What happened at Sylvan last night was what we call "Homework Support." The kids bring in their homework and we help them. Usually the student is enrolled with a regular program (reading, math, study skills), but this one is an ACT prep student whose mother was desperate for any help she could get. So, he came in and I helped. We were sure to let her know that we couldn't guarantee any help, and she still sent her son in. And I'm glad that turned out okay. :)