Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Teach him to fish..."

I was typing some notes to a student about his paper, and had this moment I don't remember having as a teacher. I've had Those Moments when I'm having a student interaction and see their faces light up. Or when I get an email. But this one didn't involve the student, and it still felt really potent.

His punctuation was a mess and the ideas are hardly coherent. But if you look through the proofreading, his ideas are gorgeous. I feel like most people miss that. He's probably had red marks on his papers throughout his life, and just shut down on writing. Maybe decided he's "not a writer"...or "stupid"...or whatever.

I hear them all. And I don't believe anyone, because I do believe I can take any writer from any background and make them able to write a paper. Write a best-selling novel? Maybe not everyone can do that or want to do it. I don't even want to do it, and I love to write! But to write a solid paper, there's a formula that anyone can master. Math brains. Dyslexic minds. I believe in all of them.

So he has this paper that...let's be honest...it's kinda crappy. It's supposed to be a final draft and it's a rough draft. And maybe no one has forced him to move out of Rough Draft phase, to see what happens if he keeps at it.

I decided not to give him my typed notes, and just hand-wrote a note on the bottom and told him I loved his ideas. And come see me, so we can find a way to bring those ideas front and center even more.

And as I did that, I felt this wave of excitement for that meeting with him...that maybe I'll tell him something he hasn't heard before. That the proofreading isn't really the writing part at all. That's just editing. Even Maya Angelou needs an editor. You can't find someone to write your ideas, but you can find someone to edit them. I can't wait to tell him that. That he is a writer and what he's offering, his ideas, are beautiful. We can fix the rest of the stuff.

I never set out to teach, but then it started happening in my life and then after a point, nothing else made sense. Emerson says that's how you know you're on Your Path. Doors just fly open. Opportunities will find you and it will seem almost magical. No one else can re-create the path, because it's the one you're meant to walk. It's not perfect for everyone, but it's perfect for me. I love that.

And in teaching moments like that, I'm reminded I was meant to teach. And mother too, but they're so connected to me. One blends into the other and back again.

I know when I'm on my right path, because there's a sense of contented joy that just glistens.

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