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“Home Instruction.” Two words that seem to have become a perpetual dark cloud for me. The short phrase that never ceases to evoke the same response you would normally get from opening the Panda Express bag that you picked up ten minutes ago only to find that the ordered chicken and broccoli had, of course, congealed into a lump of grease that would likely fail health inspections in most states. The moment your brain realizes what happened, the very nanosecond those neurons fire, you show your dissatisfaction, whether it be with a disgruntled sigh, or a “bleh.”

THIS is how I react when I realize I’m about to start home instruction. I’m not overly angry, nor am I truly upset; I’m just annoyed. But don’t get me wrong. The fact that on most week days, when my illness is moderately tolerable, I have the entire morning and evening to do my work, is very much needed and appreciated. The true reason why I despise home-tutoring so much is the tutors themselves.

Over the years I’ve had the wonderful privilege of sitting down and working at my dining room table with an eclectic hodgepodge of instructors, and that’s putting it very nicely.

If home instruction is the perpetual cloud following me, then Mr. Joe White is the bane of my existence. It has always eluded me how a man of such tall stature could exude the same presence as a kindergartner. Maybe it’s the fact that no matter what shirt he’s wearing, it always has some unknown stain on it. I’ve spent many a session trying to deduce what exactly said stain is, and I think I’ve narrowed it down to meatloaf. Meatloaf defines Joe White perfectly. It’s there. It kind of gets the job done. But you want your dog to get rid of it.

A typical “session” with Joe White will include me doing textbook assignments that should be homework, and him sitting there essentially balancing his checkbook. Many little booklets of salmon-colored paper that he writes unintelligible words on, that i will never know what they are. By now I’ve gained a strong disliking for the man, simply because of the fact that he gets paid for doing absolutely nothing.

Mr. White first started coming to my house in ninth grade, specifically for my Physical Education and English classes. The scent that permeated my dining room should have tipped me off to what our blissful time together would be like, which could only be described as a “slightly unpleasant odor”. It had no distinct origin, and it wasn’t overpowering in it’s strength, but it was unpleasant nonetheless. This scent very much went along with Mr. White’s persona; it didn’t stand out too much, but it was certainly present. I often implemented the strategy of working with my face buried in my arms bent across the table: it was both relaxing to my aching body, and restricting to my suffering nasal passages. Sadly, my family and I would quickly learn that the nauseating miasma emitted by Mr. White was very difficult to get rid of.

Although Mr. White is the instructor that stands out most in my mind, there are countless others that have come and gone over the years. Despite the negativity that has always come along with home instruction, there’s no question that some funny moments have transpired. One of my favorites, although it does come from my darker sense of humor, was when the young woman who was supposed to be tutoring me in biology simply fell over in her chair. As she got up to leave she made a wrong step, and completely fell backwards. Stifling laughter is not one of my talents, yet I managed to help her up and escort her out of the door, suppressing my what could only be described as guffawing until after the door shut. Maybe the comedy was enhanced by the fact that she had only just finished telling me about the seven “cuter-than-buttons” cats she shares her apartment with, but I digress.

After the tedious instruction sessions themselves, there’s the always-fun lull when the instructor packs their things up and gets ready to leave. This typically consists of me swaying uncomfortably back and forth making conversation about amusingly awkward topics like the weather, or how amusing it is that my small Yorkshire Terrier is named “Tiger”. As soon as the door shuts, I typically jump for joy knowing that I’m done for the day, and proceed to pass out on my bed.

When I talk about my “situation” with my friends, the response I usually get is along the lines of, “Wow that’s awesome, you get to sleep all day and only have to work for two hours at most... I wish i could do that!”

Yes, my situation would seem pretty “awesome” to any teenager, yet when one takes into account all of the Joe White’s I’ve had to deal with over the years, gruesome seems much more fitting.




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