For a couple years, that was the sentence I most loved hearing when I picked up the phone. It was an absolute joy to my ears. It was among the most delicious foods for my soul. “Thank you for all your work, John. We don’t need your services anymore.” It filled me with pride.
When I was in college, I had all sorts of jobs. In fact, there was a time where I was actually putting in 85 hours a week at work. Just to try to pay for college. And that didn’t include my “one weekend a month” deal with the USMC. (And I still couldn’t afford to stay in college, but that’s a different story.)
So, when is it that “we don’t need your services anymore” is a glorious affirmation? I’ll tell you in a minute. But first, let me tell you about my 85-hour-per-week work schedule while maintaining a full-time college schedule.
When I got off work as a casual (meaning temp that can’t be hired) at the Canton, OH main branch of the USPS at 6AM, I walked across the field separating the USPS from Malone College (now Malone University) and straight to the cafeteria, where they had an uncut grapefruit specially for me so I could peel it and eat it like an orange instead of sugaring it and spooning it out. After my breakfast of that grapefruit, whatever they were serving (including free seconds), 8 servings of various fruit juices, 16 ounces of Pepsi, I headed off to bed to miss my Calculus II class while I slept. I taught myself Calc II and only attended the 9AM class on test days. I also taught myself Statistics and slept in-class during that course, except for test days.
I had a late-morning, early-afternoon, 25-hour-per-week part-time job packing veterinary supplies for non-vet animal owners (such as horse wormers and the like). After that, and making room for my afternoon classes, I had an afternoon, 15-hour-per week job sitting in the math lab to tutor college students in their collegiate math courses. In addition, I spent 10 hours a week in the evenings tutoring high school kids in their math courses. And to finish it off, I had my recurring temp position with the USPS working 35 hours a week (overtime during Christmas) on the graveyard shift.
Again, that does not include my USMC Reserves duty.
While in college, my Chemistry professor told me “You have too many irons in the fire. If you want to succeed in college, you need to pull some of your irons out of the fire.” I responded “If I want to stay in college, I need to find more irons to put in the fire.” I didn’t find more irons to put in the fire so I had to leave college, due to a lack of money (but, again, that is a different story).
During my time in college, there was this ad on the radio that said something like “If we don’t improve your kid’s letter grade by one grade level in nine weeks, we’ll reimburse you all your costs” or something like that. Every time I heard that ad on the radio, I laughed derisively. I knew my own record. Junior High and High school kids under my tutelage went from F-D level work to A-B level work in far less than 9 weeks.
How did I make such a change in grade level? Along with teaching the kids one-on-one the material itself (which is the absolute minimum of educators), I also taught them how to learn the material. And, after a week or two of getting to know them mathematically, I also told them “You already know this stuff; you just don’t know you do.” And those two things were the key. Teach them how to learn and affirm they know what they know (which is different than developing a self-esteem based on falsities).
And that’s when I started getting phone calls shutting down my services. Every phone call I got that shut down my services was from someone exceedingly pleased with the results of my work. “You did a great job with my kid. He (or she) is not struggling anymore. In fact, he (or she) is doing great in math. Your services are no longer needed.” I thanked them for their call and cancelled their portion of my work schedule and whispered a quick prayer to Providence thanking Him for giving me the ability to get the kid straightened out in math.
And I reveled in the glory of successfully opening another student’s mind to the point another student no longer needed special assistance. Every single phone call from a parent saying “your services are no longer needed” was another astronomical emotional high to me, and I got at least 20 of those phone calls during my off-campus tutoring time.
Every one of my “students” had at least a 2-grade jump in less than 7 weeks. Every single one of them. And, quite frankly, it was because of my two basics:
1)Teach them how to learn.
2)Affirm in them the fact they already know.
While schools are busily planting a self-esteem in kids’ heads based on abject falsehoods, I pumped up their self-esteem based on facts: they knew the stuff but didn’t trust their own knowledge. While schools were busily shoving the flocks from one grade to the next, I taught them how to teach themselves. And that is the biggest key. Schools (and all libs in general) give kids a fish. I taught the kids how to fish. And that made all the difference.