Slice of Life: Getting Un-Stuck

One of my colleagues asked me if you had to be invited to join in the Slice of Life. That made me realize, once again, what a gift this community is. No invitations, just show up on the page with others who are willing to put it out there.  Gifts abound here at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesdays. One of the newest gifts is the juicy, sunny Slice of Life button. Check it out and join in the slicing.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hHere’s a slice of parenting mixed up in a slice of teaching. Where one begins and the other ends is sometimes a murky thing. People get stuck, and we don’t know how to get out. We feel like we don’t fit or we can’t do it. When this happens to our children we try to help, to impart our hard-earned knowledge. But our advice seems float out and away, while they struggle through. Are they paying attention?  We talk, they listen, and then we worry when we say good bye.

I see kids stuck every day, not knowing how to get unstuck.  As teachers I work to get them to the next step. Growing takes time and it is uncomfortable at the very least. …we try to help…they struggle through. Are they paying attention?  We talk, they listen, and then we worry… We ask questions. Students sit and shrug their shoulders. They don’t know. They just know they don’t fit in this space at this point. We push. We prod. We try another angle. Maybe this will work. And they struggle. We struggle alongside them.

I have a new student. He is a writer. He is a reader. You’d think he’d fit beautifully into our reading and writing classroom. But he doesn’t yet. He is a truly wild reader and writer: reading and writing to his own drummer. He loves fantasy and he is writing his own. Pages and pages. At home. And no one can look at it. He is hugely creative. He is infinitely private.

His writing inventory reveals he DOES NOT LIKE writing memoir. He DOES NOT LIKE reading historical fiction or realistic fiction for that matter. He wants adventure, fantasy and can consume it in vast quantities. There is no way I can keep him in books. When we confer he mostly shrugs his shoulders. Any work I ask him to do he does as quickly as possible in order to get back to HIS book..

We talk about school and how it is a place where we have to fit in to a degree. And sometimes it does us good to try. To fit in. To read something a little different. To expand our horizons, to see the world a little differently. He sits and shrugs in his parent conference. And puts his head down, A hint of a tear is there.

It seems wrong to make this creative soul conform. To fit. He’ll just go through the motions because he is compliant. But then I move to the inventory’s questions on work habits, and I see one thing thing he wants:

I‘d like you to teach me how to talk. I don’t know what to say. I get confused and it doesn’t make sense.

Eureka! To talk. I know what to teach. For most of my students, talking is the easier part. For this student, who is quite frankly lightyears ahead of the others in reading and writing abilities — the job is different. It won’t be easy. Success may be partial, but I know what to teach and he as the learner knows his job. The relationship is clear.

For our own children, while we were their first teacher, our ability to influence seems to recede as they reach out to adulthood. That’s their job I suppose to seek independence.  So we sit and wait for them to get un-stuck.

15 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Getting Un-Stuck

  1. Reading your slice created an image of a raft stuck, and then being pushed off to float again. It’s never the same solution for teachers to get the students unstuck. I am glad that you and the student found what might help in this case.

  2. This is such a poignant post. I struggle all the time with that as a teacher, and I’m sure I will when my son gets older. It seems wrong to try to make kids conform, to fit into this prescribed mold of expectations and behavior. But then do we do them a disservice not to “acculturate” them? And now that I think about it, I’m struggling with it now. I get pressure to let my 3 month old son cry by himself in his bed all night because that’s what people are supposed to do – sleep all night in their own beds. But that is what is convenient for ME, because I’ve been acculturated, not necessarily what’s best for HIM. Anyway, your slice certainly strikes a chord with me, it’s a difficult balance and I’m glad to know I’m not alone in searching for the right approach.

  3. I loved following the arc of your thinking – it’s so clear that you value this child and don’t want to get in the way of his creativity. And then you waited until until he let you in – and now you know your path as his teacher. That’s what a great teacher does! Bravo!

  4. Waiting for the “in.” often the biggest challenge for a teacher with any child. You describe it so beautifully in your words and in the fact that you did it in the first place. Kudos! May the talk come to him as brightly as the writing.

  5. I hear your patience, and perhaps this new child feels it too. Like other commenters, I think it’s wonderful that he asked for some help in something, a little crack in the wall he’s built? Best to you Julieanne, loved reading your thoughts about this, your own children, and reaching students.

  6. This line says it all to me…”Growing takes time and it is uncomfortable at the very least”. Many of us have students and family members where growing is really hard. I applaud your respect for this student who prefers fantasy. Thinking that learning how to use the spoken word is key in this instance. xo

  7. I loved this post. I can see this student. And, I can see he is fortunate to have you as his teacher. And, yes. Why does he have to conform? Why can’t we create spaces for these students? How do we do it??

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