Friday, October 8, 2010

Teaching Angelo

I have learned the reason that teachers teach.

For the past month or so I have been tutoring at the Clearwater Learning Center. One of my students is Angelo, a bright, cute seven year old Mexican boy. His mama is a single parent, can barely speak English, and he is raised in a home where only Spanish is spoken. She immigrated a few years ago, bought a tiny trailer in a trailer park with money she made cleaning houses and restaurants and has a powerful intention that her children (she has a three year old daughter) get an education and learn English. She is a proud American.

This was complicated by the fact that the school insisted on putting him on Ritalin because he was dispersed and didn’t concentrate!! The child is seven, energetic, bright, curious, and didn’t really have a clue about what was going on in school. Small wonder he was “distracted.” I could rage at this lack of humanity dished out in the robotic school system.

I have been trying to teach Angelo how the short “a” is used. Bat, Rat, Cat, Mat, Sat, etc. I finally, after two lessons got him to actually read these words out loud, but he would read down the line and get to Fat and say, “Sim,” or “Nin,” or something like that and he just didn’t get it. The “at” at the end of Fat, didn’t register as sounding like the others preceding, and he would look at me with those big brown eyes and not know. The lessons would be an hour or sometimes hour and a half two times a week on Mondays and Fridays after his regular school.

I would help him with his homework which was totally ridiculous. Totally out-gradient stuff that meant nothing. He would be given stuff to do and turn it in and never be told if it was right or wrong, for it wasn’t graded by the teacher or returned to him to know what he had done. And some of the questions baffled me. This is the modern school system. No wonder we will be a third world country soon!! And here was a child who was desperately trying to keep up and learn and having started out behind would stay behind unless he had some means, like a tutor like me, who could help him at least move in the stream and not drown in the eddies and log jams of misunderstood words and out gradient stupidities.

I had no idea how his mother Claudia got way across town to the CLC for Angelo’s tutoring, but I learned they had to take a bus and transfer once and walk a distance to get there. So I picked them up a week ago and brought them to my house and Claudia cleaned my house while I tutored Angelo in a long two hour session. She charged me $15 an hour for four hours and her work was fast and totally beautiful. Angelo and I had several breaks so he could look around, play and get exterior. At the end we got through the homework as usual, but still there was a blankness in his eyes when we went through the many words, examples, puzzles, etc., on the “short a.”

So last Monday, October 4, 2010, rather than make them go to so much trouble of bussing to the center, I tutored him at his home. It is a tiny trailer in a mobile home park. She was so proud of it. She said, smiling big: “I pay $5,000 for eet fi year ago.” The trailer had one bedroom, kitchen and little dining room, small room on the side with a sofa, and a screened porch. They are Catholic, and I am invited to his first communion soon. Pictures of the Holy Mother, Jesus, are on the walls and fridge along with little magnetic plastic capital and lower case letters stuck on the fridge door. We sat at the little dining table and went to work.

I first got him through his homework, and then tackled the short a. We went through the usual routine, and though he is energetic he was patient, and still baffled at what I was trying to get across. Now this is the fifth or maybe sixth session. I took the plastic letters down from the fridge and put down “bat,” then “cat.” He got kind of still watching me, and then I had him do “Fat,” all of a sudden his little hands got busy putting together all of the words, even making up three letter words with vowels we hadn’t even used. He was totally blown away to spell “Poo,” which always fascinates seven year olds. So now Pee and Poo were words he could spell in plastic. I felt a rising joy in me as he put word combinations down, and I knew he had it. He had the short a and evidently knew what we had been trying to do!!

I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced, outside of being an auditor and watching the amazing change in your preclear take place right before your eyes, but seeing Angelo cognite on the short a and spelling three letter words, now more and more I know, was nothing short of one of those soaring moments you will never forget that changes you too.

So if you want to have this, to know what I know, I guarantee there are hundreds of thousands of children out there that you can change by simply spending some time like I am with tools which the CLC has, and get after it. Sharon and Holly are angels in my opinion. They run the CLC and have an amazing amount of tools that can be used at every level of learning needs there and they will provide them and help you with the next step.

I also have been tutoring an 11 and 13 year old brother and sister team in grammar. We are on adverbs. There is a grammar kit that makes it simple and gradiently fun and they get it. I had to learn it myself!!

So give of yourself and teach a kid. You never know where it will lead. Like a pebble dropped into a pool the ripples of your action radiate out in every direction and every dimension and touch places you could never guess. All because you dropped a pebble. I love this little kid, and we have bonded. There is a depth of gratitude from Claudia that is almost audible.

I have changed for though I am only dealing with Angelo here, and the others later, even just having one under my wing is enough to know I am making a difference somehow. Angelo will be a man one day and he could even be President of the United States, and he will make a difference. All because I took some time. You can too. If you want to feel like a million, take some time. Reach out and touch someone and see how it feels if for no other reason than to feel like a king. You know you are changing the future when you help a child.


  1. Wow! Excellent win! It is truly a special gift you are sharing, the gift of education and the gift of a better future. Continue!
    Vicky Salcido
    Success!Tutoring, Burbank, CA

  2. LD, that is SUCH a great story.
    I have been a teacher in a boarding school and a course supervisor, so I know what you mean. To touch someone's life so that it changes for the better is such an enlivening experience.
    And you are going the extra mile by helping them with their travel too. Those extra miles earn you points, for they will come back to you in abundance in some form or other.
    Well done and continue.
    Love, Barbara Dowling