I did some 826LA after-school tutoring yesterday, which was as always super-interesting.
The rule of thumb is that the older the kid, the trickier the homework. Usually, that means “trying desperately to remember 6th grade level math.” But this girl sat down with me, at least 13, and her only homework assignment was to work on an essay for English. And what was that essay on? Oh, just “compare Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery to THE HOLOCAUST.”
"What [the fucking hell] grade are you in, exactly?" I asked her.
"I’m a freshman," she said.
Great. 14 years old. Great.
Because I am a morbid bitch, The Lottery, the Holocaust and I are intimately acquainted. Thus, this girl and I ended up examining the evils of mankind for an hour.
Seriously. Questions about why the townsfolk of “The Lottery” just joined in the violence without questioning the ritual. Me mentioning the fact that the vast majority of Germans during the Holocaust weren’t actually members of the Nazi party. Discussions about complacency and ritual and conformity and “imagine explaining Christmas to an alien except instead of cutting down a tree and putting it in your living room, you stone your neighbor to death.” (That last thing may not make sense out of context.)
It was almost wonderful, though, because this great girl, who was in a business magnet school but wanted to be a nurse, was smart and kind enough to be fucking horrified by all this. Why didn’t people do anything? Why didn’t they make it stop? She said all the right things, totally unprompted, because you know what? The world still makes good people.
I first did after-school tutoring several years ago, because a) I had time and b) I realized that with the exception of a very cool baby cousin, my daily life contained no interaction with people under the age of 21, and that I was the lesser for it.
Kids can be problematic; you’re not supposed to curse in front of them or talk about R-rated movies oh fuck I did spend some time talking about Zero Dark Thirty with this girl but it was to explain how that movie is different from actual war movies like Full Metal Jacket…
My point is, every time I hang out with a kid, I’m blown away by their potential. Every time, it’s an opportunity to be surprised.
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