Samuel towers over me as we walk down the school's hallway. I am his Writer's Coach and he is in seventh grade. The first time we met, he spoke with a strong, confident voice. Today -- a few days before the holiday break -- his mind is elsewhere. The night before I read the last of Jan Karon's books about the small town of Mitford. The main character, Tim, is struggling to reach a young teenager who grew up in a dysfunctional family. Tim makes the decision to just love the young man.
I think of that solution as I sit across from Samuel, who I know from our previous session, to be bright and insightful. I spent 17 years teaching students who were Samuel's age. Next to parenting, I found teaching middle school kids to be the hardest thing I've done. Now as a tutor, I need to let go of my ego, my own perceptions, my desire to be liked, and my own agendas, and just be present with the students I work with. Today, no matter how fidgety Samuel is, I've decided just to love him and let him take from me what he needs to get. I listen to his essay. I ask him questions to help him include more details of the story he is analyzing. I point out the parts where he has done well. In the end, Samuel walks away with an essay he is satisfied with, and I walk away without feeling the frustration of failure because I put 'just love' in my day with him.
Would you like to tutor as a Writers Coach? Check out the Writers Coach Connection at their website: http://www.writercoachconnection.org It's a great program that should be nationwide.