Two Typical Days
On the teaching, learning, knowing I’m doing right now.
Our living-learning community: 13 Chinese teenagers (eight boys and five girls; four grade-9, five grade-10, four grade-11). The teens attend a private Quaker K-12 school. We have two academic tutors, two cooks and household staff members, and myself.
Locale: A large, low-rise apartment building inhabited by approximately 254 septuagenarians and Us. We are in the suburbs somewhere north of Philadelphia, PA. Our front yard is a parking lot. Our back yard is a golf course. The school is located across the street. The grocery store across the way. Basically, the definition of the Burbs.
My role: I like to call myself a Residential Educational Psychologist, but honestly I only get to be that about two hours max on any given day. The other 8-10 hours a day I’m “on duty,” I take kids to practices, appointments, buy toilet paper, help solve everyday problems, etc. Sometimes I cook and clean. Other times I take the kids to the movies and stay to watch the film.
What follows are the memorable (remembered) points of two average days in my current life.
[3.6.12] A Monday. My work day officially began at 5:30pm. It ended at 3:44am, Tuesday. It went a little something like this:
Emails (round one) to:
- school secretary explaining the confusion of sending a #teenspirit to pick up two envelops (with correspondence for parents); the kid picked up two new, empty envelops instead. I’ll be making the trip over tomorrow.
- HQ staff re: hiring of a new tutor
- students with friendly reminders about appointments
- local colleague “A” re: dinner plans, must move dinner up by 10 minutes to accommodate two #teenspirits Monday schedule
- students with friendly reminders about stuff
6:20pm: dinner visit; chat with students and colleagues
6:45pm: take two #teenspirits to Japanese class
7:30pm: room visits (round one)
8:15pm: call to China with a grade 11 mother re: college planning
8:45: pick up from Japanese class
9:10: room visits (round two) focus conversations about spring break plans
9:40-10:20 meeting with tutor re: new tutor and scheduling
10:20-12:20am [a really long lunch/dinner break that included watching “Labyrinth”]
12:20am review daily notes/to do list
12:30 upload pictures to our Flickr stream
1:00: emails round two: college counselors re: planning meetings for grade 11s, parents re: travel plans, passport issues
1:30-3:00am two case reports and emails (round three) to parents
3:00-3:44am: emails (round four) reports to colleagues including data from well-being measure (the kids are average well)
[4.10.12] A Tuesday, about a month later …
Emails, calls, text messages (about 75) with students, local staff, parents, teachers/school staff, HQ staff (3hrs, on and off all morning, day, and night)
Dinner time check-ins with all students; touch base with local team (1.5hrs)
1-1 meetings with four students; one for college planning, and three student development (2.5 hrs)
My plan to write reports about three students derailed by News Flash of tomorrow’s all-school Science Night. Furthermore, tomorrow night’s scheduled four interviews will be postponed because all our our grade 10-11 students will be at the science night. I will be there with them.
9:15-11:45pm procuring supplies, printing, cutting, advising, proofing, encouraging, snapping photos, getting snacks, etc. for seven kids working on their projects. They were still working when I left. (2.5hrs)
No breaks. No meals.
Wait, I ate a cold pork chop while raiding my craft supplies for the kids working on their Science Night projects.
2:00am I woke up remembering I forgot to email a student his insurance information. He has an ingrown toenail and needed to make a doctor’s appointment.
I did that too.
Reconciling the spending? Not done.
Monthly reports? Not done.
Follow-up emails? Nope.
Upload the day’s photos to Flickr? Not.
Wash the dirty pans I left soaking in the kitchen? As if.
Everyday I have many tasks and chores that don’t get done because the well-being of all 13 students always takes priority. And sometimes, every once in awhile, we just hang out.
The key thing is, even if you only have a couple of hours a month, those two hours shoulder-to-shoulder, next to one student, concentrated attention, shining this beam of light on their work, on their thoughts and their self-expression, is going to be absolutely transformative, because so many of the students have not had that ever before. Dave Eggers