20. Training Day

The reception desk was empty, and I wandered around peering in classroom windows before flopping down on a bench to wait for a clue as to where I should be.

After three people had stopped to ask me for the bathroom code, the security man finally appeared on the scene and led me to a classroom where a guy who looked like a grad student was holding court before 10 or so volunteers. I recognized a young, blonde guy from my last session at the center, and slid into a desk, feeling like a teenager caught playing hooky. The grad student ignored my attempts to obtain a copy of the packet everyone else kept glancing at, so I squinted not so subtly at my neighbor’s paper to figure out what was going on.

We were there to learn how to coach students in passing the writing portion of the city college admissions test, and apparently, the session had begun at 6 o’clock, not 6:30. I wasn’t to know that, since no one had bothered to email me the details, and figured I deserved brownie points for showing up anyway. Nothing brownie-like looked to be coming my way.

Mr. Granola droned on for an hour about writing techniques and how most of the students were so confused, we would be best off advising them to just mimic the prompts they would be given. He advised quoting liberally from the passages they were dealt, and the only other remarkable aspect of the speech was how little passion he had for his work.

After the session concluded, I cornered him to confirm my hunch. I asked a few minimally prying questions, and learned that he had, in fact, just finished his Master’s in poetry at Columbia. I told him that my playwright friend is now selling real estate to make him feel a bit better about the fact that he spends his days teaching adults about nouns and basic punctuation.

He smiled wryly, and at last, handed me the paperwork.

I can’t say I’m exactly enthused about the work ahead.

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