My teacher was on vacation this past week and I feel like I got a much-needed break from class time, but that doesn’t really make sense when I think about it. I’m only taking one class which has only taken place for two weeks and I already feel as if a break was needed. It’s kind of funny when I think back to my old days of being a full-time student spending nearly my entire day with my face in a book. I would get a break every once in awhile to play a sport, workout, eat, and maybe sleep. Life of course is different now and what used to be a piece of cake now seems to drain me emotionally and physically.
My life as of lately has pulled me out of the comfort zone I have built around myself over the past year and a half. I usually take my sweet time in the mornings getting ready and don’t mind simply sitting around the house waiting for motivation to kick in. Nowadays I don’t have the luxury to wait for the motivation and must force myself to get up and accomplish my tasks for the day whether the motivation is present or not. My emotional state is usually at its worst when I wake up in the mornings and slowly gets better and better throughout the day until it’s time for bed again when I’m usually at my peak of positivity and peace of mind. My 11:30 a.m. class requires me to overcome my low point of the day as I have to get up, take a shower and take care of spinal cord maintenance business before heading off to campus. The entire time I am getting ready for some reason I’m a bundle nerves as I repeat my current mantra over and over in my head. I have recently taken a break from my mantra as it seems I have created a correlation between the words and nervousness, so now when I repeat the words it subconsciously creates nervousness. The mind is such a twisted, conniving apparatus.
This past week I wasn’t even in class but could still sense an underlying feeling of nervousness. I think it’s difficult for me right now to wrap my mind around all that is going on in my life so that my lack of complete comprehension and preparation causes me to get nervous. The three main features of my life at the moment consist of class, doing a volunteer assignment for the class, and Project Walk.
I have six more weeks of class time in which I have to get 20 hours of volunteer work in order to write a paper. At first I had no idea how I would volunteer until the thought of volunteering at the rehab hospital came to me. I then realized that I have been trying to volunteer at the rehab hospital for over a year now and have yet to see any official results. I decided to try again anyways and very quickly once again got stuck in the sand. So I headed over to the service learning department on campus and they suggested tutoring at a center which helps adults either trying to get their life back on track or simply wish to learn. I immediately thought tutoring was a horrible idea mostly because I was afraid of failing. I figured I probably didn’t have much to offer someone and would probably spend more time learning the material myself rather than teaching it.
I had experience in college in which I tried being a supplemental instructor for Botany class which I got an A in the previous semester. On top of being an SI instructor I had a huge workload of classes including Zoology, Chemistry, and Precalculus. I ended up putting so much pressure on myself to be a good instructor that I spent more time studying Botany than any of my other subjects. I was slowly falling behind in my classes so I had to quit. All the students thought I quit because of this annoying loud mouth who asked me how I got an A because it seemed like I didn’t know anything. Sadly, I let the comment offend me even though I previously knew his tendency to attack others when he didn’t know the answers. Anyways, I found myself actually enjoying being an SI instructor but it was just taking up too much of my time being that I refused to walk in on a session without having a good grasp of the material.
Back to my present life, I ended up e-mailing the lady in charge of the tutoring service and began asking her a bunch of questions which conveyed my apprehension. She replied in confidence that I would surely be able to help as many people were simply learning how to read. I told her math was by far not my strong point and she assured me I didn’t have to tutor anyone in math. Her explanations of the program eased my nervousness somewhat but of course I was still timid. Sunday night I made the last-minute decision to give it a try.
The following afternoon I was late at I rolled into an orientation of new tutors sitting around a circular table. I was welcomed amongst the group and looked around me with surprise as I discovered I was the only guy in a group of about six middle-aged women. For some reason I was expecting people my age to be involved in the program with me. I immediately felt in over my head and figured each person there was probably an ex-teacher who had experience with this sort of thing. As the head of the orientation began to talk I was feeling more and more like this was a bad idea. I think the program mostly caters people who are working for their GED’S which means they are studying high school level material. By the end of the orientation I felt a bit better and figured I could just help people learn how to read. For some reason the woman running the orientation had all this confidence in me and seemed really glad to have me there. I’m not sure why, I could have been a complete idiot for all she knew.
Most all the women left after the orientation but I had a hint of courage within me at the time and decided to check in the lab to see if anyone needed help. I told the organizers I had some skill in writing and their eyes lit up immediately. I was led to the back of the room where I was introduced to a young man around my age who was studying for his GED. There was no nerves at the time because I was immersed in the situation. As I have said before, most of my nerves only stem from anticipation. I talked to him for a little while at first to show him that I am just a normal kid who is in a wheelchair. Many times people associate the wheelchair with abnormal brain functioning so I thought it was important to convey my normalcy. He then showed me what he was working on. It was a part of the exam which focuses on story editing. It gives you a few paragraphs and then multiple-choice questions which ask your various things about how to switch around certain sentences, what to remove and so forth. When I first looked at the material my heart began to pound as I realized these questions were going to be hard even for me, and I was supposed to be the tutor. My heart slowly eased to a normal pace as I began to read over the questions and formulate a plan of how I was going to go about this. Not knowing the exact answers myself I ended up having him join in on the process with me of trying to figure out the answer. I think many people sometimes don’t do well on tests because they aren’t aware of the process of narrowing down the choices. As we got into the material I felt like the session went very well and instead me doing any actual teaching we more so worked together to find the answers and discover strategies of choosing the best possible answer when there is more than one to choose from.
Having this first session helped me realize that being a tutor does not necessarily mean you have all the answers. A tutor is much different than a teacher. Much like being a supplemental instructor a tutor can help guide a person to finding the answers on their own. Instead of saying “This how you do it”, I say, “Well let’s look in the book and try to figure this out together”. If I approach tutoring in this manner I should really feel no pressure to know the material and the student will probably learn more in this manner of tutoring anyways. Both of us win. I also must recognize that there might be people whom I won’t be able to help and that’s OK. I’m hoping that knowing this will help me go into tutoring nerve free but it’s pretty unlikely.
As far as Project Walk goes, my trial visit is still set for July 24th. My family and I have decided that flying is the best choice for right now. If we drove for the trial visit and then decided to move to San Diego we would have to drive all over again. My Dad seems quite OK with this scenario but I’d rather only make the trip once. Flying might unveil many complexities of its own but we will survive most likely.
I’m not going to try and convey all the emotions I have concerning moving and pursuing this possibility of my life. I’m not sure if I even could if I tried as I’m not sure what these emotions are at the moment. I am certainly going to miss my hometown and the people whom I have met. If I do move, I will surely have to throw a big going away bash.
Going to see Tom Petty tonight! Should be a blast!