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A student in 10th grade came to me today for help on threat of failing out of English and therefore school. His class average, “F” might be improved by generating one essay. “I’m not very good at writing,” he said sheepishly as we sat down to work. “Perfect,” I told him, “putting this thing together has little to do with being good at writing. It is actually rather formulaic. Watch this.” That’s when I showed him a diagram I’d devised to reduce the essay into predictable interrelated parts that simply had to be filled in. It’s nothing new. There are a ton of these things out there, but showing him my crude diagram and announcing it was as simple as filling in the blanks had a light bulb glowing over his head.

I have seen this boy in class all year and I have even worked with him before, but today somehow my words hit him differently. He cranked out sentence after sentence, many of which were quite fine and just needed a little tweaking to be acceptable. I have never seen him apply himself before and realized he just needed someone to speak his language, I guess. You never know how you strike people. Maybe he had to hear me say it many times, or watch other kids do it first, or get out of the classroom into the library where we worked more independently today. Who knows.

I am just glad that today my words hit ears that heard.