Not the first thing you expected after a vacation absence, right?
It wasn't what I expected either. But a week before our departure, a posting landed in my inbox offering the chance to work as an online tutor. True grammarian wanted, the ad said, flexible hours available.
I was a little skeptical about the quality of the employer, given the odd (read: unorthodox, bordering on misspelled) abbreviations elsewhere in the text, so I asked Marketing Sis if it looked legit enough to consider -- my goal was to start earning a wage through some form of teaching while still trying to balance that commitment with my own writing, among other necessary fall projects D and I are working on. So when Marketing Sis's magical search skills didn't turn up any employee complaints (or evidence of a scam), I threw together a resume and sent it off. Look at this as a chance to get your feet wet, I told myself, and if it ends up being disastrous, you can always walk away.
The business, it turns out, is owned and managed by one woman out of her home on the opposite side of the country, from which she contracts tutors all over the U.S. for students primarily on the East Coast. She failed to notice my Seattle address and called to interview me two days later at 6 a.m., without any prior contact to schedule said conversation.
I have to admit, I'm not swift to wake up and probably sounded a bit bewildered when I answered, fearing a close relative had gotten sick or injured. But when the woman quickly made her disdain known -- "Do you even remember sending me your application?" she asked, perhaps in response to my silence after she'd introduced herself -- I snapped to attention. Simple oversight, I thought, as I explained the time difference, after which the woman was effusively apologetic. So I padded downstairs from the bedroom, D still half-asleep in the darkness, and took her questions in my pajamas.
"You'll be tutoring students who need help on the grammar section of the SAT exam," the woman explained, which sounded manageable enough, even attractive. Subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, misplaced modifiers, parallel construction -- I'd always enjoyed the rules of syntax, thanks in part to my own middle-school grammar teacher. The orderliness of language that she'd revealed, the characteristics of each part of speech, the algorithmic ways of determining the functions of each word in a sentence -- I loved all of it. Could I teach it? Oh, yes.
So I left for Hawaii, agreeing to start work within the week of my return.
Given my long silence since the beginning of October, I'm sure you've guessed at this point in the story that the job has turned out to be much more of a commitment than I believed it would be. Not because I have that many students -- there are just four -- but because my employer is more disorganized than, say, a five-paragraph persuasive essay with no thesis statement and randomly collected statements of fact instead of substantiated arguments. Teaching materials? Sent the day of my first tutoring session, minutes before it was supposed to begin. Oh, and did I mention that this woman decided during my absence to assign me some SAT writing students? My feelings on teaching essay writing to college students have been, at best, mixed -- comp instructors, breathe your collective sighs with me! (And then think about doing what you do, only with high schoolers. Mm hmm, specifically what I didn't want this job to be.)
But of course, given my experience, the woman "thought I'd be perfect" and went ahead with the plan without asking if I cared.
I've spent the last week putting some safeguards in place to keep my sanity from leaking out my ear, but let's just say that there's still plenty I need to do in order to get more timely information from my boss before each tutoring session -- and prevent her from transforming my job description any further. I've promised myself that I will live up to my new duties, but I'm drawing the line at further unforeseen demands.
As for our Hawaiian vacation: it was a getaway better than any we could ever have imagined. More on that trip -- which deserves so much more than passing mention -- once I get my work-life balance back.
Breakfast of Champions
17 hours ago