Friday, 7 January 2011

Give a Little, Get a Little

Back to tutoring this week, which I have to admit I am absolutely loving. It's doing what I went into teaching to do, and that is to teach. And the students I work with are such characters. I'm half way through the course for my first 'batch' of tutees, so have used this week to do a little reviewette of their progress so far, just to make sure they all feel they are getting something from their sessions and maybe adapt their programme accordingly.

Words such as 'enjoy', 'fun' and 'can use apostrophes properly now' have been the order of the day. One of the Year 11s said, 'Yeah, I really look forward to seeing you on Friday mornings coz I get to do proper work, innit, without idiots like Stuart and Danny getting on my t*ts?' I spent a goodly amount of time this morning listening to her enthuse about her plans for the future - and boy, has she got her life planned out! I told her about the Open University because she's worried about being able to afford to go away to uni, and she dashed off to order a prospectus. And as she went I thought, I bet she gets where she wants to be and I wish I had half her energy.

One of my tutees, a Year 7, declares on a regular basis (generally when a book comes within a two foot radius of him) that he 'hates books' and 'hates reading' because 'it's boring.' I suffer heartache when he says this because a) he is as bright as a button and suffers not from a struggling brain but a goodly dose of 'can't-be-bothered-lazy-itis' and b) I love books and can't really cope with people who say they hate them. So I said to him on Wednesday, 'Would you read a book on an e-reader?' ( I got Andy a Kindle for Christmas and it's been attached to his palm ever since.) And this little lad looked at me like I was mad and said, 'Course I would.' And I said, 'Why? It's still a book, isn't it?' And he said, with a pitiful look in his eye, 'Well, I wouldn't have to bother about turning any pages, would I?' it's the turning of the pages of a book that makes reading boring, is it? Easy-flip pages could be the way to go for this weak-wristed generation of children.

Another boy was having trouble with his biro today. One discovery I've made since becoming a teacher is that boys aged 11 to 14 have the uncanny knack of making biros explode so that they and all their surrounding become covered with thick, gooey ink. It's a rare and peculiar talent, demonstrated beautifully by Alfie. He got out his 'emergency biro' which then refused to write properly.
'It's all scratchy,' he said. 'What I really like writing with is a fine liner.'
'Me too,' I said. 'I have one you can borrow if you like,' and I lent him the one I keep in my lovely shiny purple handbag.
Well, he did some beautiful writing with the fine liner, taking real care to form his letters (he's a bit of a drunken-spider-on-a-page writer), and at the end of the lesson he gazed lovingly at the pen.
'You can keep it if you like,' I said, because I could tell he was reluctant to part with it.
Honestly, you'd think I'd given him the crown jewels, such was the beam of joy on his face!
'Make sure you keep up your good writing with that pen,' I said.
'I will, ma'am,' said Alfie.

And this brings me to the karmic theory of 'give a little, get a little.' Because when I got home and checked my e-mail, I found one from my friend Sarah, who bought copies of Nearly King Jimbo for her family. She had forwarded an e-mail from her aunt, part of which said thus...

'Have loved NKJ. So much so that I think it is the only book ever that I have almost immediately restarted when I have finished it. There is so much in it that my slow wit missed much first time around - and much enjoyed both times. It is a book for all ages...'

Bless you, Sarah's auntie. You've made a rookie writer very happy!

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