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James: Inspiring and Changing the Lives of Children
“You’re gonna be homeschooled, sweetheart,” my mom said happily. “I enrolled you in a really awesome tutoring program. It will allow you to have more time for Junior Olympics.”
My heart plummeted into my Converse sneakers as my mom handed me a glossy brochure with smiling kids and ivy-covered walls. What about my friends?
Little did I know, those words would be a three-year death sentence, starting with the day James stood on my doorstep.
Now, James didn’t look threatening. He was of average height, with chestnut-colored hair and one of those chipmunk gaps between his two front teeth. He always clutched a white Styrofoam cup of coffee in his right hand, his briefcase in the other. He showed up at promptly 8:45 every morning, varying shades of disinterest clouding his face.
A typical day:
“MaCall, turn to page 203,” James sighed in a dull monotone.
Then it came. The dreaded vibrating cell phone. James whipped it open.
“Well you know what, honey? I LEFT THE FREAKIN KEYS ON THE TABLE, SO I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU CAN’T FIND THEM! Yeah, you are an idiot. Okay, bye,” he said, slamming his flip phone on the table.
“Okay MaCall, did you read that paragraph?”
“Um…no, you didn’t say to read it. You just said open to 203.”
“Excuse me. Honey? WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT? Well that’s precisely the reason I can’t afford that tie I wanted. You keep spending all the money on food.”
He snapped the phone shut and whipped out his silver Macbook.
“Okay…now let me just find this…er…thing I was going to show you. I have to go to the library archives to find it…” he said, furrowing his brow as he looked deep into his computer screen.
Right behind James was a cabinet with glass doors. James’s computer screen was reflected in the glass doors, and I could clearly see that he was browsing through his e-mails.
“Hmmm. The library archives aren’t granting me access. It’s weird because I just spoke with the adminstrative…um…the administrative department about—”
While he was ‘trying to get in to the archives’ I was watching him type this:
subject: my dry cleaning
Go pick up the dry-cleaning! What do you mean I don’t have any more clean shirts? You know what? Just shut up. Can’t you see I’m tutoring? Bye.
James, Tutoring and Test Prep
Inspiring and changing the lives of children since 1998
“Wow, for some reason, that password…it’s not letting me get into the site. Security these days. It’s like….what does a teacher have to do to provide their student with some knowledge?”
I gave an understanding nod and opened a blank word document on my computer. Maybe while he was emailing his wife I could get some work done.
“Okay. Today we’ll be discussing some…hold on,” he said, rifling through the papers in his folder. He pulled out a wrinkled sheet with some words on it.
“—vocabulary. You’re going to learn some words that will help you get into Harvard.” He paused so I could show my appreciation.
“Cool,” I said.
“The first word is bizarre. Bizarre means: ‘markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character and often involving incongruous or unexpected elements; outrageously or whimsically strange; odd: bizarre clothing; bizarre behavior.’”
I typed the definition as he dictated it to me.
“MaCall, you really need to get off the computer. You’re not focusing and I’m going to have to tell your mother.”
“I’m taking notes. Look, I just typed the definition,” I said, swirling my laptop around so that he could see the screen.
“Everyone knows it’s faster to handwrite notes,” he said, pulling the plug on my computer.
I type 90 words per minute.
“You need to pay attention and stop messing around.”
This was my face:
“Anyway, did you read the first chapter of Stargirl as I asked you to?” he asked suspiciously.
“Actually I read to chapter five.”
“Why are you putting me behind? You know I don’t have my copy of the book yet.”
Now, I thought it was okay that he hadn’t read the book on the first day of class, but by the time I was taking my final exam on the only book we had studied all year (which by the way was for sixth graders and I was in eighth grade), it got a little strange. When I handed my test in, he peered at it with furrowed eyebrows, flipping it over a couple of times and clearing his throat.
“Ahem…well…I haven’t read the book yet, but this looks fine to me,” he said, flipping it over one more time.
His brow furrowed some more as he examined a spot on the page.
“Are you sure #13 is correct?” he asked.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t have circled it if I had thought it was incorrect,” I said levelly.
“Okay, well, we should double check,” he said, staring at me.
I handed him the book. He didn’t take it.
“…did you want me to grade it?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure,” said James, opening his laptop and signing in to his email account for the third time that hour.
So about that dry cleaning…