12 July 2005

Tuition Series (Part 2) - Clara

I took up this assignment when I was in NS and back then, the army pays pittance. It was Unit (as in Operational Unit e.g. Battalion, Brigade HQ or Division HQ) life after the initial BMT and it was almost like an office job with 9-to-5 hours and then nights out till 2359 on weekdays. I accepted the assignment as I desperately needed the extra cash to fuel my partying habit on weekends. I was hesitant initially when I learned that Clara lives in Sembawang (my camp was in Bukit Panjang). A consult with the bus guide revealed that I needed to take the bus in the direction of Woodlands, stop at the zoo (yes, I visit the zoo 4 times a week!), cut across through Mandai Road and then change bus at Nee Soon to get to Sembawang in the direction of Peirce Reservoir. Same route back to camp after tuition each night. Siong!

I guessed, I took the assignment partly also because my Godma lived in the same estate and it meant that I get to visit her pretty often (read: free dinner).

Clara was a Sec 2 student from a true-blue pinafore school and I was to teach her math and science. Her math was the bigger challenge as she was averaging about 60 marks on her tests. Instead of spending the first few sessions figuring out how far her school has gone into the semester's syllabus, we dove right into preparing her for her upcoming test in 2 weeks' time. According to her, she said that I was teaching her all the "shortcuts" when what I really did was to make her understand the subject concept which in turn gave her the much needed confidence. The confidence to realised that no matter how complicated the questions were worded, it all boiled down to asking for the same thing. Just apply the concept and the answer will always be correct.

On the afternoon of the Friday, two weeks later, she paged me (ahh... yes, the time before mobile phones).

Me: Harlow, siang kar pay-geer?

Clara: I got my test results today! Guess how much I scored?

Me: Out of how many marks?

Clara: 50.

Me: Er... 40?

Clara: Nope.

Me: 35?

Clara: Nope. I scored 50!

Me: Zhun Bor?!

I expected an improvement after 2 weeks of coaching but I certainly didn't expect her to shoot right to the top on her first try. Hmm... looks like I've got myself another smart kid.

I vividly remembered the following Tuesday when I stepped into her home. There were a whole congregation of people in the house with kids and all. For a moment, I thought I just stepped into a surprised party. Apparently, the word of Clara's perfect score got around the whole family tree and all the uncles and aunties showed up to see who this miracle worker was and wishfully hoped that I would agree to take an additional one of their sons/daughters under my wing.

Alas, no. I turned them all down as I am not ready to be bogged down by a sackful of commitments and besides, I really don't need THAT much money to party.

Overall, she did well for her Sec 2 and finished the year with an 80+ average. She was rewarded with a place in the triple-science stream and I was to carry on teaching her, expanding the subjects to the 3 sciences and 2 maths which translated to a significant pay raise.

Then something didn't seemed quite right when the December holidays started. There were some strange vibes, pulsing from her direction. Holy cow, it was a teenage crush heading my way! You could tell by how she lit up when you showed up at her door each tuition session. By how she does everything you told her to. By how she finished every bit of homework you had assigned. It appeared to be all good but there was just that overwhelming vibe that totally smothered your senses to pieces. That look in her eyes tells me that something was scheming in the back of her mind. *shudder* Each tuition session started to become a test of my nerves of steel.

Then came that Saturday afternoon before Christmas when she called to meet me at Raffles City. We were to exchange Christmas gifts for we took a break from tuition for 2 weeks. We met, we exchanged and we decided that I should send her home as it was getting near to dinner time. As we were walking, she held my wrist...

WAH LAN EH?? CHOR SI MI??! OMG!! She was going to do the old hold-wrist-then-innocently-slide-down-to-hold-hands-interlocking-fingers trick. BUAY SAI LAH.... 14 years old only!! How can???!! Rotan leh!!

Subtly, I switched her gift to the hand-in-distress and thereby thwarted any chance of letting her successfully do the hand-slide-and-capture. She was pretty persistent as she sneakily switched over to my other side and tried again. It was a cat-and-mouse game of the hands as I passed her gift from left hand to right to left and back repeatedly.

I guess by the time, I dropped her off at her home, she got the hint and that was that. Phew!

Then, it was Sec 3 and she became cocky and overconfident as far as her schoolwork is concerned, thinking that she has a tuition talisman at home to keep her invincible. Add that to the distraction of boys and her grades started to slip. She got lazy. Homework was no longer completed when I returned. So the time during tuition were spent doing last session's homework instead of teaching her new stuff, ahead of her school. Time was wasted as she procrastinated and the shocker came when her mid-year report card revealed that she failed 6 of her 8 subjects.

She was in shocked and her parents were visibly upset. The drop from an A-student to a failure was just too much to bear in a single blow. They were further surprised that I was so calm about it. They did a further double-take when I told them that the results were expected and she was on the right path. I explained that she needed a huge humbling setback as a wake-up call. Unlike Karen, Clara couldn't be motivated by her own ambition to achieve academic excellence, for she had none. Clara needed another type of motivation - fear. The fear of failure.

After that mid-year shocker, all was well again as we wiped the slate clean and started over. I couldn't see her through the "O"-Levels as my term in NTU started just before her pre-lims. Travelling from Jalan Bahar to Sembawang twice a week, just wasn't possible. Not even when the parents offered to double the fees. I would love to but I just couldn't do it.

However, I left with a peace of mind, knowing that her foundation was laid in place and I had no doubt that she would go on to do well.

We kept in touch from time to time and found out that she did ok for her "O"s. Not fantastic though but enough to get her a place in CJC.

Then one day, 2 years later...

Me: Harlow, siang kar pay-geer?

Clara: Hey, it's me. Clara.

Me: Oh hey. Long time no hear. How's you?

Clara: I got my A-Levels results today. I got 3 As and I had to get on stage to receive it from the Principal in person.

She went on to read Law at NUS.

All was well.

- Voxeros

1. ei|een left...
Tuesday, 12 July 2005 3:06 pm ::
ok. i'm gonna display my school pride now.


wah lau. damn buay hiao bai. bwahahahaha :p

the best thing is that we also have street smarts. not just book smarts. well, most of the time anyway. alot of my schoolmates in sec school were all really intelligent. but we were all damn playful. heh.

2. jaschocolate left...
Tuesday, 12 July 2005 6:32 pm
why didnt i know u back then.. if i do tuition, maybe can help.. sianz..

3. JayWalk left...
Tuesday, 12 July 2005 8:21 pm :: 
ei|een: I agree to everything you said about convent girls.
In fact, I married one!

jaschocolate: Maybe can help as in you being a tutor or you being a student?

4. jaschocolate left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 8:51 am
me as a student lah.. i was too stupid back then not to employ someone to teach me and now.. i am lost..

5. JayWalk left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 9:47 am :: 
jaschocolate: Well, you did turn out ok at the end of the day anyway. So I guess no biggie there lah. :)

6. Sheena left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 11:23 am
Yeah, I can attest that convent girls are smart. Look at me! LOL~

Anyway, looking at you, I would never have guessed that you were THAT charming to girls. I mean, at that time, you weren't a rolling-in-money sugar daddy yet right?

7. JayWalk left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 1:15 pm ::
Sheena: You bladdy siao char bor. I was never a sugar-daddy to begin with lah...

According to your fortune teller, I machiam only mentor or something to that effect. Where the hell got mention sugar-daddy?

If this fortune teller say I sugar-daddy, I make sure I will kick his ass jialat jialat when I come back.

8. akk left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 1:30 pm
the make of a true tuition teacher, u are. :) very happy ur student did so well. :)

9. JayWalk left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 1:34 pm :: 
Akk: Frankly, I think I got the luck of good pickings of students.
After all, they were the one who sat for the exams, not me.

10. a crunchy green apple left...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005 8:35 pm
Very interesting blog you have here! Guess i'll be checking in often. :) I was cheated by the tuition agency once and i don't want to teach tuition anymore from then.

11. pinafore left...
Thursday, 14 July 2005 2:37 am
One more pinafore to testify. Most convent girls are beauties with brains ...

12. JayWalk left...
Thursday, 14 July 2005 6:09 am ::
crunchy green apple: Ahh... welcome to my humble abode. Glad to know that you find my writing nonsense palatable.

As you would have noticed. All except Clara are free tuition (Read: no money one). Hmm... between you and me, gee... who kena cheated more? Hahahahah....

Hey maybe you want to share you experience here? I am curious to know what happened.

pinafore: Heh heh... for once, I couldn't agree more. :)

13. vandice left...
Saturday, 16 July 2005 12:43 am
I have had mebbe 10 students, and the only pay check I received was from my cousin's student when I relieved a few lessons for him while he was honeymooning. All the rest were like student didn't pay (gobbled up the $$ parents passed to him), or I refused to accept payment, or I was volunteering. Haiz, cmi as a tutor/debt collector lah.

14. eemiily left...
Saturday, 16 July 2005 2:39 am ::
hee. i'm a "clara" student. my maths tutor used to say i learn things very fast but forget fast too. lazy. slacked for prelims resulting in a 15.. wasnt really shocked by my results;knew it was coming anyway. but i also knew what i had to do. right after the prelims (on marking days), i started studying (Lol, where got ppl after exam then start studying -_-).

8 weeks, almost everyday til 7/8/9pm at AMK lib. doing TYS. completed the bio, phy and chem one . maths prepation in tution. o lvl: 9 =). 4a1(double maths, bio chem), 2a2(eng,chem), 2b3(chi,humanities)

my maths tutor was fantastic. explained really well.the one who spurred me on to study most. knows the exam trend, what he said will come out really did!

i wish he taught a lvls too. i'm in lazy/slack mode now =S. gonna start mugging soon thou
hee. i wonder if u explain science stuff in hokkien..

15. JayWalk left...
Saturday, 16 July 2005 4:49 am :: 
vandice: I think you did ok as a tutor lah. At least none of your students tried to give you alternative payment of the "rotan" form. ~LOL

Girls back then already damn hiong. I wondered if it is worse now.

eemiily: Wah, you results quite power siah.

BTW, I think you avoiding the more important issue. Your tutor YanDao or not? hahahahaha...

You year 2 now? You mentioned you were from NYJC? Jialat. Memory fading liao. Old man liao.

I can't explain Science in hokkien but I have a knack of explaining using analogies though.


16. emily left...
Sunday, 17 July 2005 3:21 am ::
quite old, (late thirty/earlyforties) not yandao ; haha. he's metrosexual i think! lives alone den quite often have flowers at home + burns aromatherapy oil stuff ; (my maths stuff + me always linger of that scent after tuition lol) year one NYJC
btw i wish u were at the blog con today! at least would know someone (besides zhiyang)(classmate) hahaha

17. JayWalk left...
Sunday, 17 July 2005 6:59 am
emily: Yeah wished I was there too. Would love to meet you! However, at the rate things are (blog con around July) it looks like I will never be able to make it ever. 

Oh well, I'll have to depend on the rest of your to show me pictures. Speaking of pictures, the blogger con , from the pictures on mrbrown blog, looked quite boring leh.
I hope I am wrong.

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