First week working at a school

I started as a math tutor at a public elementary school, and I have been experiencing a lot of new things every single day. I love talking about them because this is a job and these are experiences, I have feared for years and even still have anxiety about. But these moments have been so fascinating and new.

I vent a little at the end of this, but I wanted to share those moments now since I’m feeling a little like no one gives a damn about my stories… kind of like how some people hate when you talk about dreams.

But! I’m a math tutor. I can’t start tutoring yet because the front office has been struggling to correctly process me since I’m not actually employed by the school or district but I’m also not a volunteer. Because of this, I have nothing to do. So, I have been occasionally popping into classes to ‘help out’ the teacher. I have no idea what I’m doing, though. I’m trained to understand inequities and deliver math lessons to 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. I am not trained to understand k-3 behavior issues and correctly, efficiently, and respectfully resolve them. There have been vague requests from various staff that I help with behavior issues and that makes me extremely uncomfortable, as my job responsibilities aren’t super clear to me at this stage.

But there’s a couple classes that I occasionally hop into. There’s this one 2nd grade class that is absolute insanity. The kids are wild, and the teacher is hilariously trying her best, overwhelmed by mountains of students. There are a few students in that class who have been so sweet to me, and they have already taught me a lot about interacting with kids. I don’t have really any experience with kids, which is partially why I was scared. Today the teacher asked me to deal with this one girl who was kicking the table. I had talked to this girl before and she was really sweet, but I was scared. I don’t know how to calm a kid down. But I don’t want to look incompetent and useless. I had nothing better to do, and I wanted to try. So, I sat with her, suggested she stopped kicking the table, and tried understanding why she was mad before redirecting her with a ‘game’. She said, “IM NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY GAMES” but I told her this game was just going to be in our brains. I said I’m going to think of an animal and then you ask me questions to figure out what it is. We played a round or two. She slowed down her kicking until she had stopped altogether. And she was having fun with the game! I made sure that it was a teamwork type of vibe, so she didn’t feel like she lost, or the experience wasn’t fun. It felt really good to see that and to be able to calm her down a little. I just imagine what I might want in that situation. I don’t know if what I did was what the teacher wanted in that situation. I don’t know if it’s something she wanted resolved faster. But I felt so fulfilled and proud of myself and of her (the kid and the teacher) for trusting me!

There’s another girl in the class who told me she was new, and she was definitely a little nervous. Today she came up to me and said ‘i need to go bathroom but this one is really grosssss’… It took me a second to process that I probably need to take her to a different bathroom. Two problems: I don’t know if I’m allowed to do something like that. I’m scared to cross lines or do something inappropriate somehow. Also, I’m still new to the school too and don’t know the layout super well. But I asked the teacher if that was ok and she said yeah. I ended up having to take her to all 4 kid’s bathrooms because she said they were all too gross. I definitely felt imposter syndrome, like who the hell decided to trust me with kids. But I could tell she appreciated that I helped her navigate the school. We also had some good interactions as we walked around. When we got back to the room, she showed me her plushies and her backpack. It was really sweet. I helped the class put their chromebooks away during which I received a couple ‘are a boy a girl?’ questions from this one kid. That stuff doesn’t trigger me though it’s a funny and honestly important part of this experience, in my opinion. Kids need to be exposed to real and normal queer people. At the end, the teacher had all the students say thank you misterr hallll. and that was so darn sweet. I might cry.

I just feel so proud of myself. These are situations I was so scared of and still am but when I’m in the moment, I feel like I do well enough. I really feel like I helped make today a little easier for those two kids. and that feels awesome!

I’ll be working with students a bit older than those girls but it really inspires me. And there’s a similar program to the one im doing but for younger kids that I can always try next year.

  • venting -
    I’m feeling a tad frustrated right now with my dad and step mom. They wanted to know how my week went and I talked about it a decent bit over dinner. Then they started talking in ways that didnt really give me opportunity to participate in conversation. My dad gets bored and starts showing me random pictures of payphones asking if I know what they are. We went to dairy queen and they stood at the bar watching them make the dang ice cream. All i wanted to do was share about some really special moments I had and they just created environments where I can’t start conversation. In the car they roll down the windows and turn up the music. I get im not the center of attention 24/7 but im just a bit frustrated. They get insecure and passive aggressive when I don’t stay at their house but don’t give me that space when i actually am there. But they both have a tendency to talk about things 10 minutes longer than I personally believe things need to be discussed. I do not experience any positive reaction to my step moms 10 minute explanation of her 4 month stint at target in 1995. Like… im sorry I just dont.

You seem to be developing a very good instinct with the children. Congratulations!

It sounds like your parents have a somewhat limited attention span when it comes to talking about things outside their immediate environment.

It also sounds like you wish they would pay more attention to you at times when you want to talk about stuff that’s going on with you. At the same time, you are reluctant to listen to all they have to say about their issues. I’m referencing the 10 minutes of talking that you don’t approve of.

If their passive aggressive behavior successfully compels you to spend time with them, you are in a sense reinforcing their use of the tactic. If you are with them as a result of emotional coercion, the quality of the time spent is greatly reduced.

Passive aggressive behavior often occurs when a person has not learned how to be gently assertive. I think that particular communication deficit is often passed down through many generations. Hence your parents may not recognize their behavior as problematic.

If you budget your time with them based on your emotional readiness rather than the manipulations of their passive aggressiveness, I think ultimately all of you will appreciate each other’s company much more. Of course this is me talking from entirely outside of the situation, so it’s okay if you decide that I’m full of beans.

When you are with them, be fully present, attentive and patient, even when they talk about boring stuff. It’s a way of demonstrating love and respect. It’s also setting an example that they may follow. If you listen actively and thoughtfully as she talks about her four month stint at Target, what’s the worst of that can happen?

No, you are not always the center of attention, but as a good listener, it’s likely that they will voluntarily put you there from time to time.