Friday was one of those days where there was a tiny miracle in English class. Somehow, a young lady and I seemed to be in the correct frames of mind to have our thoughts intersect, despite her typically being hard to inspire. Maybe my quiet approach, and I mean extra quiet Friday, was the right door through which to enter, because for the first time I can remember she took me seriously. She did not dismiss my attempts to help but this time took the bait, hook, line and sinker, and located a quote in the text, read it to me including the difficult to pronounce word ‘nonchalant’ and then committed it to a worksheet she up until then had been staring at for days. Don’t be too impressed. All this happened after I talked with a young man who explained that he was playing a video game on his iPhone to reward himself for answering a question on the quiz he was supposed to be taking, and another who informed me that it was too boring to work on English papers so no thanks for the free help I offered.
As far as my success story goes, it might have been because during our very quiet conversation I asked a few simple questions about the reading, and to my surprise the typically grumbly and unengageable young lady answered me seriously. That’s when I used a method that sometimes is helpful, and that is to quickly write down, verbatim, whatever the student says. “Well, you surprise me,” I said, “maybe I did not realize you could form such effective sentences. These are your words, not mine, and look how great this sounds.” And then I read it back to her. She corrected it slightly which told me she heard what I said. So I said it again in a different way. “I do hope this sentence shows up in your paper somewhere because it is exactly the kind of thing to support your thesis and prove your point.” We spoke a little more and she complained it was hard to find a quote to go along with her idea. I asked if she knew that anything between the covers of the book is quotable, and not just dialogue. Oh yes, she knew that. That’s when she took up the book, turned to a passage and read it to me to prove her own point. “Nice. That works,” I told her. “That goes well with your great sentence, so put them together and you are halfway home.” Another girl I was working with called me over and that ended my time with the difficult girl, but it amazes me how our very quiet conversation was so productive.
Having it happen that we both were in the spirit of working together despite the many days we have failed to connect, gives me hope that we are building a relationship that will result in her growing in her ability to write and express herself so we can all know how she feels. Since she is so quiet all the time.