Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Lime-Green and Bubblegum-Pink Striped Zebra

Toby, one of the literacy experts at our local public library, calls it "teacher's high." I call it deeply delightful.

I tutor in writing as part of the literacy program at the city library. My student for the last ten months is a home-schooled Chinese girl, Eunice, who finished fourth grade in June. She's an aspiring Olympic gymnast with world-class skills who diligently practices with a coach six days a week. She keeps a rigorous 48-hour training schedule in the summer.

She was a straight-A student when we met last Fall. Well, straight-A's except for writing. And being a pint-sized perfectionist, she was frustrated. You see....writing takes an entirely different thought process than math, history, grammar, spelling and gymnastic precision. Writing is sparked by creativity.

And creativity comes from imagination, which stems from fun, enjoyment and sensory awareness. I'd never before met someone so young with less of those God-given childhood treasures.

When Eunice faced a blank sheet of paper, she had no ideas or inspiration, and no tools to generate ideas. So we chatted and became friends. We looked at popular magazines, talked about our days, shared vacation memories, perused books of photography. And Eunice started to notice the world around her, to notice her tastes and preferences, to dress with flourish, to smile.

And she wrote. She learned that writing isn't a chore....that it can be a holiday of the mind. And she learned to express opinions, feelings and observations.

This summer, she's writing a story, chapter by chapter. Today, I read chapter two, and her talent leaped off the pages. She wrote an enchanting and clever tale of colorful animals who sing and of a magical rainforest. It was truly excellent in creativity and spirit, as well as in structure, spelling and syntax.

Her story is great fun, and she had great fun writing it! She glowed when I read it. And Toby says I'm glowing with "teacher's high."

As I write this, Eunice is midway through today's eight hours of gymnastics practice. I'm not judging her parents or coaches. I've never witnessed one sign that Eunice doesn't want to invest such effort and time into an Olympic goal.

But it feels incredibly satisfying to help Eunice smile, savor nachos, enjoy the aroma of a fragrant rose, see a glorious tree, hear gentle ocean waves.......and imagine a lime-green and bubblegum-pink striped, singing zebra.

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