Saturday, May 13, 2017

How can I help?

 By Fred Owens
How Can I Help?
I posted this on craigs list How can I help? How can I help you write a better essay? We can sit together at a coffee shop -- I prefer the Good Cup on the Mesa -- and go over your words. We can find the right words. My approach to tutoring is non-directive. I'm going to listen and pay attention. Tell me about your struggle. You're going to do most of the talking and all of the writing. I charge by the hour, $20 or $25. I can send you references and samples of my own writing.
But no takers, so far. No response to this notice. I have to admit something here. I have an incredibly high estimation of my ability as a tutor and writing coach. I expect to merely nod my head in that direction and then receive a flood of gold-plated offers. I expect to be recruited.
But the brutal reality is that I have landed in a swamp of over-educated pathetic creatures who are dumbfounded at the poor pay and lack of  respect in the occupation of tutoring. It is the very lowest rung on the academic ladder.
Geez, I'm not begging for work. I'm better off gardening, and I will take the tutoring only if it's worth my while.
Gardening is not exactly a high-status occupation either. I make $15 an hour. Some people say I should charge $20 or $25. Sure. But my actual customers prefer to pay me $15. My big selling point as a gardener is that I speak English. You can actually tell me what you want me to do, and then I will do it. I'm old and I don't work too hard in the hot sun, but I can follow instructions.
It's their property and their money, so I just do it their way, or I tell them, no I can't climb that tree, or no I can't fix your automated irrigation system either. They actually like it if you tell them what you cannot do -- better then pretending, better than bluffing.
I bring  that same work ethic to the task of tutoring. If you want to learn it, or if you want your child to learn it, then I will give it a go. It's like nature. In the garden, you step out of the way and let things grow. Growth is natural.
And human beings have a natural curiosity and desire to learn, especially children. I learned that in my high school Greek class. The first line of Aristotle's Metaphysics -- everybody knows that of course -- the first line reads thusly:
"All men by their nature desire to know."  Or
πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει.
That is one of the great opening lines of all philosophy and literature. Honestly, I never read the rest of Aristotle's book -- but I know the first line by memory.
It doesn't say anything about behavior. It says people have a natural desire to learn, not that they have a natural desire to behave well.
What this means is that you let children learn and you make them behave -- two different things.
But in my tutoring work, I do not enforce behavior. Not interested.  Don't hire me.
Gratitude. Thanks to Harvey Blume, a chess enthusiast and resident of Cambridge, Mass. but originally from Brooklyn, and a friend of mine since we met in the Tikkun group in 1992. I asked him to look at a manuscript, a memoir of 36,000 words. He read excerpts, he made useful comments -- just having his support made it easier. I cut out 6,000 words and now I have something pretty good. I can rest easy, for now. Thanks, Harvey. The memoir is called the Falcon Journal because I wrote it in 2005 when I was camped on the Rio Grande River at a place called Falcon Heights.
Here's an excerpt:
I am a very good camper. Other things I have not done so well at. I have always been ambitious, but I have never had any success. It is this writing. I am meant to write. I know that. When I am writing I feel that I am doing the best thing that I can possibly be doing. It’s when I stop writing that the trouble starts – because I expect something to come of it. Expect what? I ask myself. Fame and fortune – the usual thing. But that never happens. Then I feel let down. As I get older – this is a blessing – I go through this cycle very quickly, and then I get back to the writing. Because the words matter.

Onward. So that was the Falcon Journal, written in 2005, when Trump was not President, when nobody even heard his name. It was like a dream world back then. But this is 2017 and Trump is having temper tantrums in the White House...... I'd rather not think about it.

Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since 1998.
I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.
Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

thank you very much,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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