Lifestyle

Strange Tides from my Tutoring Past

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It’s been a long time since I worked for Bright Kids. I was there from the beginning, working in the tight little office we kept on Broadway, next to the Woolworth Building down downtown.

The day before I interviewed at Bright Kids, I had received an offer from Kumon to run one of their shiny new Manhattan centers. I could have chosen to work for an established and growing business with a recognizable name and a solid educational program with measured results, but I chose to accept the offer at Bright Kids because I was excited to work somewhere where:

  • Tutors were paid decent salaries – $60/hour, which seemed more than fair considering their credentials and commute time and costs to tutor at children’s homes
  • Publications and Other Educational Material Were Being Created. I was excited to be a part of introducing something new to the world, that could be accessed by many, and worldwide.

  • We were doing something new – creating a new educational resource. No one else had released tutoring material for the NYC gifted and talented exams, or the Stanford Binet and ERB tests.

Fascinating! And the owner, Bige, offered me a position right on the spot, that day of the interview. I was excited to work with people that wanted to be innovators and who wanted to work as a team to create greater access to educational materials.

Why I Left

I am grateful for the time I spent at Bright Kids, learning to build a company, managing the hiring and training process of 60+ tutors over the course of my time there. I was there for the buildout of the office to its larger Downtown space and for the acquisition of its UWS satellite office. I still remember working into the evening building the Ikea desks for that space. I remember when we sat crammed, about 7 or 8 of us in a room, and shared delightful stories of children saying and doing the funniest things during sessions and while in the lobby.

It was exciting, but in the end the company grew bigger than I was comfortable with, strange office politics came into play, and we stopped hiring well qualified tutors as the overhead costs of running such a seasonal business (Aug-Jan) on a large scale took its toll and budget cuts had to be dealt somewhere. I lacked confidence in the ability of the company to continue to deliver results and to retain quality tutors. I felt dishonest in how this would affect the children, the families that we worked with. And at the core, as someone who had once strived to teach in an underserved community in Newark, NJ, I felt at odds with a built-in exclusionary policy of only tutoring children that could afford the $180/hour tutoring rate.

How I Feel Now

I feel no hard feelings to the owner. I understand that there are so many considerations that run heavy with her being responsible for the earnings of so many employees. About 8 years into the business, Bright Kids is her legacy.

However, I worry a bit as a journalist from DNA Info recently interviewed me about my Kickstarter, which in some ways could be perceived by companies, like Bright Kids, as a threat, as I am nearly giving away that which she is charging for. That journalist than interviewed Bige, who made a remark about contacting her lawyer about my endeavor. I suppose I may expect a cease and desist letter from her lawyer, which may or may not be enforceable, although I hope she understands that I do this of my own regard, funded from my own personal finances, because while parents who can afford to will continue to seek out Bright Kids publication material and tutoring, I hope that those who cannot find some edge of light in being able to finally access the resources they need to have a more fair stab at entering the Gifted and Talented programs!