His name is Kolby. He’s seven, in Grade Two, and full of P&V (that’s Piss and Vinegar for those of you who can’t follow my abbreviations) and his mom, Natasha, happens to be a very good friend of mine.
I admire Natasha so much. A single mother who attends university full time, works and still finds ample time to spend with her son pursuing his interests, such as hockey and his latest love, Run Club. A few weeks ago, she mentioned that Kolby was struggling a bit with his reading and writing. For those of you who have kids, I’m sure you can understand how challenging it can be to help them with their homework. Most of the time, it is much easier to have someone else help a child with school work, just for the simple fact that the child won’t act up if he or she is with someone besides the parent. For this reason, and maybe for the sake of her sanity too, Natasha told me that she wanted to hire a tutor, but that she couldn’t afford it on her budget.
Truthfully, I felt a light bulb go on inside my brain and I immediately asked her if I could tutor him for free. Yep, that’s just how I roll, Generous Jo! At first, Tasha didn’t want to accept my offer, perhaps because she felt I was stepping in over my head or being too generous or for some other reason, but I talked her into it. My first degree was a BA with a minor in English and, truth be told, English is one of my passions. I love everything about language and I live to pass on my passion to others. And so, after a few scheduling conflicts and one broken down car, today marked my first tutoring session with Kolby.
Rather than make him practice spelling words or make him read boring old books, I came up with the idea that we would write a story together. I’d start a sentence and he would finish it and so on and so forth until we came to the end. Then, we would go back and read through the entire story to correct spelling, learn new words and figure out why some words sound so different from how they are spelled (such as knife). My plan worked like a charm, eventually.
When we first sat down, Kolby didn’t seem very interested in my idea at all. He was more interested in the hand weights that were on the floor at his feet and my eraser, which has replaceable rubber pieces. He was content to stare at the pictures on the wall and talk about anything and everything except our story idea. But, after I made him look at me and focus while I asked him about his five favorite things (Wii, hockey, bananas, Space Buds and his friend Nathan), he began to get into the groove. Before we knew it, we had written an entire story about Kolby and Nathan playing hockey in the park and being swallowed by a giant green blob, hockey sticks and all. The suspense in the story built as Kolby and Nathan had to find a way to get out of the blob’s blobbiness before it rolled away with them inside it and they would never see their families again. Luckily for Kolby, his mom ended up saving the day. I won’t actually give all the details because I will eventually make a little photo book for Tasha with all of our stories inside it.
When the story was finished and we had corrected all of the spelling and learned how to spell some new words, such as should and could, I realized that we had been at it nearly an hour. The deal was, when the story was finished, we would play a game of checkers, so we packed up the book and set up a game. I won one and he won one. The rematch will be after our session next Tuesday. I think I may have to cheat because he’s a checkers whiz. He really made me have to think hard about each move and I felt as though he was knocking on my brain. Hello. Is there anyone in there? That wasn’t a very good move, was it.”
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Kolby today. It felt so good to see him get excited about writing and to use his imagination to picture himself inside a giant green blob “as tall as his house”. And the best part was that he was learning without any pressure to succeed.
I firmly believe that people who give, give, give and then, when there’s nothing left, give some more, deserve to get something back. It doesn’t matter who you give to, as long as you do give something because, trust me, it will come back on you tenfold eventually. If the donation of a small amount of my time has made Tasha’s life a little bit easier or Kolby’s interest in language a little bit more enthusiastic, then it was well worth it.
Happy Giving everyone!