Thursday, February 9, 2017


This week's teaching word has been "patience." I subbed a rando English class on Tuesday. The lesson plan called for a symposium on singular vs. plural verbs joy of joys. Besides clicking the Powerpoint I asked the students to write example sentences. I asked everyone to write a singular sentence that started with "She (verb)" in present tense. I gave several examples. I asked a girl in the back row what she wrote. She didn't. I said I'd come back. I did a couple minutes later. She said "I just suck at this, so I don't know." I said, "No, you don't. Any sentence at all. Try it." It was uncomfortable. It was quiet for a full minute before she creaked "She...jumps." Hallelujah. In that quiet moment I'm always like "Oh no, why did I do this?" But the answer is because they can all do it, and if they can't, with twenty seconds of coaching they can.

Yesterday in the Writing Center I had a guy who had to write a summary of an article about liver transplants. I asked "Okay, so what do you need help with?" He said, "I can't write." So I asked what the first sentence should be, and he said he didn't know, and then I asked again and he said something that was a pretty good start, so I was like "Awesome. Write that down." He had slow motor skills, penmanship like a 4th grader, but his ideas were solid. We went on that way for the full hour. He would write a sentence for two minutes. He would look up. He would say the next sentence outloud and then I'd nod, he'd spend another two minutes writing. I mostly sat and looked at my hands. I itched to pull out my phone while I waited and could literally hear the clock ticking behind me, but all he needed was someone to sit there with their full attention on him. Fine.

Today a young woman wild catted in. What does the author mean by X, I asked, I DON'T KNOW she cried HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW. She read the paragraph again and I asked her to explain it to me. She did. She knew. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO HAVE EXAMPLES ABOUT AMERICA WHEN IM FROM CAMEROON she yowled. Oh, well talk about that experience vs. the American experience I said, as if I'd just thought of it, she beamed a million filaments I CAN TALK ABOUT CAMEROON? Yes, you definitely can and should.

Last night I was almost off the clock when I spotted a familiar face. A student who was in my very first class I taught in Chicago. She just graduated with her Associates. She's gonna be a nurse. We hugged. I felt so ancient. I wait on students all day. My life blood draining out my seat. Patience feels like doing nothing, but, you know, it moves in its invisible way.

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