So the lesson is over, and I’m getting my stuff to go home after one of my weekly teaching appointments. The lesson could have gone better but hey, progress is being made even if it is sometimes painfully slow. Because it’s now evening, both parents are home and the dad takes this opportunity to ask how his son is doing. Gheeze what do I say?
“Really well!” I reply. “He really is doing well although if he just put a little more time into it, things would be even better” I say, smiling a tight-lipped-this-is-kinda-long-smile.
“Well the lazy part he gets from his mother.” replies the Dad. Cringe number 1. I force a laugh and glance at my bag hoping that he sees my intent to leave as soon as possible.
“Remember what I told you today Richard?” I ask, deflecting my attention to my begrudging student. “Practise with a metronome from now on. Can he use the internet or a phone when he practises until you get a metronome?” I ask his Dad.
“I can use your phone can’t I Mum?” Richard calls out to his Mum.
“Sure honey,” She replies.
“Tell me how to do it; she’s rubbish with technology,” the Dad says under his breath. Cringe number 2. I reply that there are many free metronomes online or available from the App Store or Google Play, hoping that someone in the house knows what I’m talking about. I’m going to miss the start of Eastenders. I don’t even watch Eastenders but right now the prospect of it is more exciting than this.
“Ok, so next week, same time?” I say.
“Yes,” calls the Mum from the kitchen, “I have a meeting I have to be at but Brian will be here.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” replies Brian, “I don’t know if i’ll be in the country next week.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that? When were you going to tell me?” asks the Mum. Cringe number 3. I want to go home. Now.
“You can call me when you know, the plan for next week” I say sheepishly. Did I just say that out loud? I hope so. Brian lets out a disgruntled sigh and seemingly braces himself for the inevitable verbal onslaught.
“You always do this,” the Mum scowls. “Why can’t you just tell me your plans? You can’t just make plans whenever you want to. We have children and responsibilities…”. Cringe number 4. She continues talking but I manage to block out her rant. Richard has left the ‘conversation’ and is now watching cartoons on TV. Why are they doing this in front of me? What did I do to deserve this? Are Ricky and Bianca still together?
“I’m sorry,” apologises Brian. “Give us a sec.” Cringe number 5.
“No it’s fine,” I reply “take your time.” Why did I say that? It’s not fine but what can I say? I’m still waiting to get paid too.
Brian retreats into the kitchen and shuts the door. I can hear raised voices but am not interested in whats being said. Should I just leave? Sit and watch cartoons? Call someone and ask whats happening in Eastenders?
Is it too much to ask not to argue in front of me? True I’m not a guest; I’m effectively hired help but it doesn’t mean I need to witness arguments like this. Maybe some of you out there have experienced being caught in the middle of a domestic before and I often wonder how other people deal with it. Sadly I’m getting used to it now, sometimes even feeling tension as soon as I step foot in the door. I guess part of teaching means that you do get more and more involved in the family life but at what point do those lines become blurred? When you become more of a family friend rather than a teacher, things that wouldn’t be acceptable for you to see and hear suddenly become routine. I’m sure there is a way to keep things separate but clearly I haven’t mastered that technique yet.
Finally after what seems to be an eternity consisting of me staring at the pictures in the hall, the Mum emerges, seemingly victorious and tells me that the same time next week will be fine, pays me and apologises for the delay.
“No It’s fine,” I reply, “see you next week”.
I exhale as I close the door behind me and walk to my bus stop. What have I learnt today?
1. I need to reconnect with my inner child and watch cartoons.
2. Mums always win