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The Last Days of Los Angeles # 7

I Shouldn't be a Teacher

by Luis Rivas



Disclaimer: for the sake of securing hypothetical employment and hypothetical limited measured financial enjoyment I am going to say that the following is a work of non-fiction, yup.

WHEN GEORGE W. BUSH SIGNED AND CONGRESS PASSED THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT INTO EFFECT IN 2001, who would've thought that losers like me would be allowed to be around your kids, and receive a paycheck for it 11 years later? And worse still, that a commie like me would be imparting Marxist words of wisdom to your vulnerable child when the parents weren't looking?
The company, which I won't name here (a job's a job, right? Or in the immortal words of street poet laureates Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, "Gotta get dat money, mang"), could care less if we are actually tutoring the kids.


Scary thought. But it happened.

I'm getting paid to tutor little kids in English and math, exclusively in poor working class and immigrant neighborhoods. The company, which I won't name here (a job's a job, right? Or in the immortal words of street poet laureates Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, "Gotta get dat money, mang"), could care less if we are actually tutoring the kids. All they care about is making sure we complete the total amount of hours that each kid needs so that the company can get their sweet, moist, chubby and senseless paycheck from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The program, however good the intention was, is a monstrous bureaucratic nightmare, an unaccountable pyramid of just-doin'-my-job-just-submit-your-hours-and-move-on-to-the-next-student rhetoric. The irony is this: One of the greatest fallacies of the No Child Left Behind Act is its narrow-minded emphasis on grades and test scores, this ultra-meritocracy. And what do the school districts in conjunction with state and federal agencies do about it? They subsidize private tutor companies (and some non-profit ones, too) to make these allegedly failing students better students by testing them regularly, giving out assignments that require students to fill in the bubble to the right answer, forget critical thinking, A, B, C or D kid, pick one, fuck analysis, bubble one in with a No. 2 pencil and a half-awake mind. We are training not better students, but better test-takers.

A scary joke.

Bush, his administration and the Bush-minded perpetuators' logic is that if test scores improve, so do the schools. Call me a crazy radical but test scores don't fully determine or correctly analyze a child's intelligence or level of education for that matter. Many tutoring companies have sprung up in the last decade, hiring people such as myself that are just desperate for work, know a few words in English, know how to read, write, do basic shit, aren't total fuck-ups. I took the job because at the beginning the pay-off sounded great: $15 per hour, part-time, I set my schedule, my rules, etc. Then I found out that it's an independent contractor status so although there are no taxes taken out of my checks, I am responsible for all tutoring materials. The company provides access to their website where we download forms. But tutors have to print them out using their own ink and paper and that shit gets expensive. Not to mention gas, pencils, etc.

The Last Days of Los Angeles # 7 continues...

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About Luis Rivas


Luis Rivas lives in Los Angeles, California. He was a telemarketer, construction worker, flower delivery driver, fast food cashier, sales clerk, non-profit canvasser, adult store and strip club manager and package handler/zip code sorter. His work has appeared in the following publications, some of which he contributes to regularly: Zygote in My Coffee, Unlikely Stories, My Favorite Bullet, The Hold, Cherry Bleeds, Corium, Rural Messenger Press, Thieves Jargon, Origami Condom, Outsider Writers, Full of Crow, Counter Punch, Gloom Cupboard, where his is Poetry Editor and Red Fez, where he is author of the Last Days of Los Angeles column. He dropped out of Los Angeles Valley College where he was studying journalism to work full-time at a porn shop. Then he got fired. Now he has gone back to school, continuing his studies in journalism and Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge and Los Angeles City College. He is currently building up his own literary website, peaceisillegal.com and plans on publishing a book on his youth. Once upon a time, he grew a beard. (There is evidence on the Internet.)

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