The Boy I Tutor Doesn’t Appreciate Me aka It’s Not About You, Shannon!

I’m used to my own kids appreci-hating me. But not other children!

I’m embarrassing the pubescent testosterone right out of Miguel just by standing in the doorway of his homeroom class.

Miguel’s a 13-year old 8th grader trying desperately to cultivate a mustache that looks like a black caterpillar, an attitude that makes Eminen in 8 Mile seem like a pussy and hair spikes that put Darth Maul’s horns to shame.

Miguel has forgotten, yet again, to meet me in the library for our half-hour, Monday morning reading session and I’ve had to track him down like a ticked off mom and lasso him in front of his friends.

(Also, my mustache puts his to shame).

When he follows me, slouching out of the classroom, I ask if he’s brought The Hunger Games, which is the book we’re reading.

“I forgot it at home,” he deadpans.

This is the second time this month Miguel’s forgotten his book, but I’ve tricked him by borrowing a second copy for myself.

I whip it out of my purse, “Don’t worry,” I say, like a prosecuting attorney revealing damning evidence to the defendant, “I’ve got a spare.”

Why isn’t this tutor slash tutee relationship turning out like an After School Special?

Shouldn’t Miguel be initially truculent, then slowly unfurl before me like a flower seeking rays of sunlight?

Shouldn’t I be the Anne Sullivan to his Helen Keller? Even though he’s not deaf, blind and mute, but merely attempting to be too cool for school?

Where is the gratifying sense that I’m “making a difference,” hence worthy of Sainthood?

Me as a Saint.
Me as a Saint.

Or, at the very least, a ladyship bestowed upon me by the Queen? (I could get used to Dame Colleary. Holla!)

Instead my progress with Miguel has been frustrating as I find myself in an uphill battle to help someone who patently does not want help. (Or perhaps is just too shy and embarrassed to accept it graciously?)

Yesterday, after two months of missed opportunities, we did manage to get to work in time to read an entire chapter.

I read to him, because when he reads aloud his comprehension plummets.

I can’t tell if he’s enjoying the story or not. He sits leaning away from me (perhaps made uncomfortable by my bossy Woman Fire – which can intimidate and even frighten young males) and I read at him, not knowing if this is helpful or not.

But something happened yesterday that deepened my desire to forge ahead despite his seeming indifference.

Often I stop and explain the meaning of difficult words. But yesterday I asked him if he knew what “perimeter” meant, expecting him to shrug his shoulders.

Instead he answered, “Isn’t that, like, the out limits of an area?” “Yes!” I exclaimed, as if he’d cured menopause.

And there it was. The hint of a smile under his fledgling mustache. A glint of pride in his eyes.

Oh, my darlings how lovable people can be.

I’ll show up every Monday now with a spring in my step. Maybe he won’t ever praise and appreciate me. Maybe this won’t make much of a difference in his life. I don’t know.

But it’s changing me.

Commitments do that. They elevate the way we see ourselves, the way we move in the world, forcing us to engage with people we might normally dismiss. Then suddenly strangers are people we can appreciate and love. And the world becomes a community.

Onward ho! (As in cheerful exclamation, not hip hop, twerking video vixen).

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13 thoughts on “The Boy I Tutor Doesn’t Appreciate Me aka It’s Not About You, Shannon!”

  1. Hmm .. Curious to know if he learned the definition of “perimeter” by playing Call of Duty/Metal of Honor …

  2. Persistence! He may try to push you away with his bad attitude and laziness because he’s trying to determine if you’ll give up easily on him. It’s a difficult task, I’m sure.
    Keep forging ahead! I certainly remember those adults in my life who helped me when I was being a teenage toot.

  3. You can be sure that he will always remember you–and yes, even appreciate what you’re trying to do–even if you never get to hear about it, so just keep at it.

    Thanks for always making me smile. Especially last night, when, due to a text-o-graphical error, I raced back to get my daughter after basketball practice at “4:45”, but they didn’t get out until…6:15. OMIACTUALGOSH. I sat in the stupid car. The whole time.

    The only thing that kept me from gnawing on the steering wheel and snarling at passing traffic was…thank goodness…my smartphone. I think I read your whole entire blog. We’re practically family, now. 😀

      1. You totally did. And here I sit again tonight, while they are in the gym working out. Last night I was so annoyed I was ready to text to my husband, “Somebody owes ME some freaking hours someday!” But it felt like bad parenting. Still. When I get old I’m going to make my kids sit in the car and wait for me while I wander aimlessly around libraries and parks…

  4. It’s impossible to accurately gauge the amount of positive impact that you are making on Miguel’s life. Sure, he’s aloof and unappreciative now, but down the road he will likely look back and understand that you took the time and effort to really try to help him. He will know without a doubt that someone really cared.

    1. Just read to Miguel this morning and we got to a really juicy part in The Hunger Games and I could tell he was really enjoying it, while trying to maintain a poker face. Then he asked, very sweetly, if we’d get to keep reading after the winter break and I was so glad to say yes. Little by little.

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