I teach this kid, Can. (It’s pronounced John, because this is Turkistan) and our lessons consists mainly of me making the kid do his homework. He’s a kid motivated mostly by the desire for dominance, victory, his appetites, violence as spectacle, a caveman morality. He has been given everything he wanted immediately, and therefore has no boundaries, nor has he expressed empathy. When we first met, he would hit me, fart in my face, shriek for the live-in Ethiopian servant to bring him water right next to my ear, refuse to listen to a word I said. He is the child of rich parents. Being rich in this country, I do not know why, makes you insane. Can’s parents seem like pretty okay normal people, but then again they have a live-in servant from Ethiopia and also hired a person (me) to make their son do his homework. (This is because, I suppose, they know what kind of experience it is, and can afford to make someone else do it.) It pays 1200 lira a month for very little work, which is my rent + groceries, so I’m keen to hang onto it.
So twice a week I have to make sure he does his homework. He doesn’t do it unless we make a deal–do three exercises and we play a few goals of soccer. At the promise of getting to play a game with Teacher, he gets excited, and will legislate the smallest detail of the deal to make sure he gets maximum game time for minimum effort. He also leaps at any chance to humiliate or injure me, so sometimes the deal at first would be “do an exercise and you can shoot me x times with a nerf gun, where x is equal to the number of answers written correctly.” His handwriting and reading are pretty bad and I think he’s ashamed of not being able to write legibly, and so rather than try and fail, he screws around. After a month and a half of my influence, I’m actually pretty proud of what we’ve managed to do. I’ve given up all hope of coaxing out his better impulses. Mostly what we’ve done is set boundaries so that he understands it is in no way normal or okay to be a little shit to me. If he farts in my face, shit-eating grin spread wide, to test me, I leave the room and tell him it’s rude. Any hitting is met with “don’t do that,” any shrieking for the live-in Ethiopian servant is immediately met with “don’t shriek in my ear, and if you need something either get it yourself, or ask for it politely and not like a goddamn animal.” To get him to finish the homework, I write the answers in nice cursive on a separate sheet of paper and then he copies them. I stop him and make him fix it if it’s not written with care. His handwriting looks a lot better now, I think. His tolerance for work has increased, and we’ve gradually front-end-loaded all the work to the beginning of the lesson and the football to the end (rather than interspersing it throughout), and gradually moved away from the violence/mortification of teacher games. My limits for meeting a student halfway, it should be apparent by now, have really hit bottom.
On Thursday of last week, I’d observed all these positive changes and with a little pride, rewarded him with a full fifteen minutes of football after homework. We played a match in his room, he won 21-20. He begged me for one more goal as I was packing up, and I kicked the ball directly into his left wrist by accident. He crumpled to the floor, howling. “Get up,” I said. “You’ll be alright. Don’t whine.” We walked to the kitchen to get an ice pack, and then did reading practice. Since he took the ice pack off while reading the book (though still kind of sniffling) I figured he was fine.
Last Saturday, I got to their house and Can was ensconced in the sectional couch, watching TV, furiously ignoring me. His mom was like “Did you see, Can?” with a big smile. I looked closely. He had a cast on his left wrist. “Oh, what happened?” I said, as I had not put it together. Of course, it was from the football. His mom told me that he had complained a lot the next day, and so they went to the hospital and got it xrayed. His arm was fractured.
Though she did explain her husband was angry with both me and Can, she seemed pretty understanding, and asked me please no more football in the lesson. No roughhousing. I figured since I hadn’t been called and fired or sued during the interceding few days, like what would have happened in the normal universe, I was all too happy to agree.
“Oh, maybe he’s scared of me now,” I said with a grin.
“Yes! Haha!” she said. “You are arm-breaker teacher! New title!” She turned and called out to her son. “Ok, time for lesson, Can!”
Can was really angry at me, didn’t want anything to do with me. I apologized, said it was an accident, accidents happen when you play football inside your room, again said sorry. I didn’t actually feel bad, but y’know, it’s good to model what appropriate behavior is. He didn’t budge, didn’t look at me. I promised him he could put a boxing glove on his good hand and take a swing at my head for every answer he got. His eyes lit up and he got that shit-eating grin again.
Epilogue: the following evening I got a text from his mom asking what my email address was. I braced myself, expecting a summons or something. Her next text was “how can i make a kiwi bird costume for Can for school. i can’t imagine”