Self-esteem appears the biggest issue for the home tutor. Very little compares to it. It should never be underestimated. In all the years I have been tutoring, 95 percent of needs are hardly educational at all. To imagine that as a hired tutor, you are there to educate the young ones is a mistake that will tend to undermine your confidence and dignity. The message you get from the parents is rather this: “Little Johnny would like a little bit more – a bit more of whatever you think he is missing. We are hopeful that what you have to offer can set him straight. There’s an essential quality of something which we sense that he is presently lacking.”
“Yes, certainly! How are his marks?”
His parents ply their rosary of academic symbols sullenly: “Well, he’s getting mostly Ds and C pluses. These are his scores. He needs more work in English in particular.”
The teacher suddenly sneezes. “Oh, I’m sorry – how does Johnny like his schooling? Does he have a favourite subject?”
His parents look alarmed. “His English marks are average. He needs to improve in other subjects, too, but we are most concerned about his English.”
“Ah,” sighs the teacher to herself. “I diagnose bad self esteem somewhere.” (She is careful not to voice her feelings, for this cash cow must be milked for all its sour drops.)
“I will do my best to bring his marks up to scratch. Thank you for this information,” she announces firmly, moving on proficiently to little Johnny in his room.
Yet wee Johnny has a drawn face. “How’s it going?” the professional enquires. “I don’t know,” utters Johnny. Clearly he wears an aura of despair. “What do you like at school?”
“Nothing, really,” Johnny enthuses.
“Your parents want me to help you increase your marks!”
“Can I inject you with a little piece of moral fibre? – it is free, I promise. You won’t have to pay for it. It comes in bucket loads, and I’ve brought along with me just the tiniest piece!”
Little Johnny shrugs his shoulders. He’s prepared to go through the motions. The tutor is expected to have the magic touch. Everything is permissible so long as it is painless.
Johnny rejects the moral fibre out of hand. It is considered something other than painless.
“How is little Johnny going?” ask the parents, the next week. “Is he getting what we paid for?”
“Yes! He is,” I assert confidently. “I went over X and Y material with him. Little Johnny has certainly now covered X and Y material.”
The parents now know that a painless fibre is at last being injected. This is transcendental fibre – untouchable, invisible, benevolent. No pain involved.
Little Johnny ingests his non-material fibre, week after week. His marks remain at the level of a D.
Everybody is puzzled – including the tutor. “I gave him no sense of the real world, which might have troubled him, and by focusing on his marks I definitely avoided giving him any frightening sense that education was a value in itself. Indeed, I did everything possible to lighten the burden on little Johnny – since the burden of one’s parents paying money should have covered it. And yet, despite all this, wee Johnny’s marks have hardly been improving!”
The parents themselves are now considering how to make the calculation necessary that will cause heads to roll. Somebody, somebody has caused Johnny to experience his difficulties. “Get another tutor!” they proclaim.
“This tutor cannot reassure us that we are good parents, can we have another?” bellow the parents in their angst.
“We need more of that Categorical Imperative, that easy distraction from life’s hardships, that sense that not thinking is better than attending to ideas, as well as that almost certain knowledge that pursuing this approach will make life’s pains go away!”
The tutor anticipates the nature of this complaint and scowls: “And I was careful to give little Johnny so little of the painful sense that life actually mattered – and still his parents are keen to damage my reputation, exclaiming that I caused the pain!!”