Thank God it's Friday

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
MONDAY Tonight I tutor Sarah in maths. She is an able girl, mad about horses, who would be in the top set at my comprehensive. But in her independent hot house she is struggling to keep up. She feels inferior and lacks confidence. I go through the work she has been doing this week, explaining, praising and encouraging. Afterwards I take her parents' money and wonder why they're prepared to pay the enormous fees for her school and then pay me. Then I dash across town to a new appointment. The baying of Cerberus greets me as I ring the bell. "It's all right," soothes my client as a slavering hound snarls and snaps inches away from my groin. "He won't even eat dog food unless we slice up the chunks."

TUESDAY I drive out to the countryside to tutor Dave. He lives in a beautiful old farmhouse with horses outside and antiques and IT inside. His mother greets me at the door, hysterically apologising. Dave has disappeared again. A call to his mobile phone persuades him to return. Dave's problems are not academic. He just hates school and has now been permanently excluded for theft. He's rather proud of this. I think he's spoilt.

After Dave I go to an overcrowded terraced house to help Ali with maths. Ali is funding my lessons himself by working weekends at an Indian restaurant. He is desperate to get to university to escape the factories, taxis and takeaways where most of his friends and relatives end up.

WEDNESDAY My evening off. I eat a meal with my family, read a story to my son and try to catch up with marking. I feel angry that, despite my experience, skills and responsibilities, I have to moonlight to pay the bills.

THURSDAY I dread sessions with Sally. Slowly we plod through photosynthesis. I start to yawn. The first law of tuition is that the dullest children have the hottest bedrooms.

Darren lets me in. He's 10, desperately intelligent, alone in the house. For the third week in a row, I don't get paid. I look around at the expensive furnishings. The second law states that the wealthiest clients are worst at paying bills.

FRIDAY I drag my way through a full day's teaching. Then it's back on the road. Private tuition is in great demand - and I enjoy feeling wanted. For the first time in my 15-year teaching career I know I am valued. It's being paid in cash that makes it real - and being asked back week on week. By 8.30 I am numb with fatigue. On the way home I stop at the restaurant where Ali works for a big welcome and a free drink.

Chris Jarrett teaches and tutors in Bedfordshire. He writes under a psuedonym

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