Wednesday, September 12, 2007


So, I volunteer tutored at 826 for the first time, yesterday.

826 is a non-profit organization founded by author Dave Eggers "dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write."

It's a really cool place in Bucktown that poses as a spy store in the front - selling really bad fake mustaches - and has a well-stocked classroom in the back. Kids love the spy stuff which makes coming to the place more enjoyable. Along with doing very fun workshops and field trips, they also do after school tutoring.

Now, I've taught kids before. I have taught improv and writing at Second City day camps. I've instructed "residents" in improv at the Cook County "Temporary" Juvenile Detention Center. There was something about going one-on-one with a student working on their homework that had me worried. I was afraid I wouldn't know what the heck their teacher wanted and would actually tutor them to a worse grade than if they had just done their homework on their own. I also found out yesterday that students might also bring in math homework. I didn't do so well with math the first time around.

Fortunately, it's a very supportive environment and if you find yourself out of your element, there's always another tutor nearby who does know how to multiply and divide fractions.

Mathea is a cute curly haired, apple cheeked little girl that I got to work with. She brought in social studies, spelling, and - gulp - math homework. The math homework turned out to be part of a program where she just needed to do two worksheets and time her efforts. My only role would be as timekeeper. The social studies was the most involved and took up most of the time. She had to read a lesson and answer questions on our government, the main point of which is that our government officials are elected by the people to serve the people. After reading this with Mathea, I'm led to believe most of our politicians in Washington may have skipped the fifth grade and missed this important lesson.

She was great to work with and it turned out to be a lot of fun for both of us. Most of the kids at 826 want to be there. There are a few kids there against their will and I overheard a tutor having a tough time getting one to hunker down and do his work. I lucked out, but I'm sure I'll have my turn with one of them. No big deal. I've taught improv to little criminals. I just have to remember to curb the profanity.

I hesitated offering my services as a volunteer. I do way too much stuff that doesn't pay or doesn't pay enough. But this was only a few hours, very rewarding, and, the best part, when Mathea had a few minutes to kill before her parents came, she drew me a picture of a monster. Score one for the refrigerator door!


Yesterday, I asked...

"A New Hampshire teenager's yearbook senior picture has been rejected, because she's holding a what?"

46% said "A crucifix"
- No. They didn't mind the crucifix. It was her head-spinning. Made the picture blurry.

15% selected "A - ahem - personal massager"
- No. At least, not that they could see.

9% picked "A machine gun"
- Yeah. It was deer hunting season. I mean, no.

The correct answer that 30% got was , of all things, "A flower"

According to the Associated Press, Merrimack High School student Melissa Morin's senior photograph featured her and a small red flower. School officials, however, said the picture is not going to make it in the yearbook because props aren't allowed. Apparently, at one time, a student did hold a gun for his school photo which led to a "no props" allowed rule. It sounds a little silly, I know. But she was stabbing a kitten through the heart with the stem.