So eventually I managed to get some work in DC as a private tutor. For a while I was just tutoring once a week, for a family living in Montgomery County in Maryland. Since the beginning of the summer though, work has really picked up, as I’ve acquired two students from the Middle East – a boy from Kuwait and a girl from Saudi Arabia. I think both have fathers who work for American firms, and both go to schools that follow the American system. So this summer, they’ve come to the US for a month’s immersion and extra tuition. During this month I’ve been meeting one of them four times a week and the other just twice a week but teaching a session of 9th grade English followed by a session of 9th grade World History. I think he also has a second tutor who comes on other days to tutor him in math and science. His family stressed that he should also be given plenty of homework!
I love the way you discover a whole other version of a city and entire new neighbourhoods when you have a new job. So I thought I’d describe my new routine and the areas of DC I now get to frequent.
Last week started with a morning session tutoring 9th/10th grade English in Montgomery county. Normally I’ve been taking the metro to Friendship Heights in the evening and being picked up by Mom on her way home from work, but now it’s summer vacation and because of camp schedules we were meeting in the morning. So I walked from Friendship Heights, through the suburbs of this rather nice Maryland County, past beautiful front yards, full of flowers, tree houses and scattered toys.
When I got to the house, Dad was most apologetic that I’d had to walk – though he was there, working from home, he’d been busy chasing his escaped dog just before I arrived.
Dad returned to his study, and we started work in the kitchen. When we were about half way through, one of the dog walkers arrived to walk the family dog. While my student went to find the dog’s lead, dog walker and tutor exchanged pleasantries. As I walked home through suburbia I reflected on how many other people walking these streets were also staff of the families who lived here (and who, in contrast, move about in shining SUVs): au-pairs, cleaners, dog walkers, gardeners, tradesmen and tutors – the great service economy maintaining suburban life.
Tuesday saw me heading to Noma and my Saudi Arabian student. I had looked this area up before traveling here and had seen a lot of negative reviews calling it a gritty no- go area of warehouses behind Union Station. Well whoever wrote that hasn’t been on 1st street NE recently. Shiny office blocks, apartment buildings, food trucks and a metro stop that reminded me of the DLR stations in East London all combine to make a safe, modern and buzzing environment. A pop up book shop called Carpe Librum welcomed me just out of the station, there were cafes, food trucks, a Starbucks, a Harris Teeter and a CVS all within a block.
I tutored my Saudi Arabian student in one of her apartment building’s spacious common areas. The space is both a show kitchen and a party area that can be hired out by residents (a lot of apartment buildings have these in DC) but for our purposes it has a lovely long wooden dining table that we can work on. The area is public, but mostly quiet. In fact it’s quite serene, with a trickling water feature and a fake fire with flickering flames.
When the lesson was over I headed over to Foggy Bottom. Here, in an apartment building above a Roti, a SweetGreen and a Whole Foods, my Kuwaiti student lives with his brother, who I think studies at GW.
Here we work in the conference room in the business center of the apartment building and I take my breaks in one of the common areas.
I’m fascinated by the lives of my students, especially in terms of what they do with their incredibly long summers. Growing up in the UK we only had six weeks holiday, and I remember even getting bored in this short amount of time. My American student has been on vacation since the beginning of June. So far he’s been sailing with his grandparents, to a hockey camp and to an academic camp and now he’s on vacation with his family in Europe. My Middle Eastern students will have about three weeks when they finish tutoring and while one is going back home for three weeks of doing nothing, the other is heading to London for a couple of weeks of museums before heading back to school. In the meantime they don’t seem to be doing much except for studying and going to the mall.
As for me, I’m not doing much except tutoring at the moment – and spending far too much time in Starbucks (before, between and after sessions…) Things should be calming down soon though, at which point more normal blogging service should resume!