My new student, the man and his wife, are the last on my list of tutorees. When I walked in she had made cookies, had the tea steeping, and a cheesecake made (as I type I'm trying to take in enough water to dilute the horrendous amount of sugar in my system!). I sat down at the kitchen table and was struck by the fact that I come from a time and place where a lot of things are figured out there. We eat, we visit, we drink tea and coffee and beer there. We do a lot of living at the kitchen table. Tonight we were sitting down to learn to read.
If you could have seen just how pleased he was with himself, I swear that most people would run out to find someone and help them learn to read. "Look at this, eh?! Look what I gotta show ya." So I sat without a moment to unpack my bag. I leaned forward a bit to watch but was careful not to crowd his space. Space can be pretty important, especially when you're about to do something big. He pushed back his cap so it sat towards the crown of his head and the peak no longer pointed perfectly forward. He waved his hands around like a magician ready to do a trick. "Now I've been practicing and I could do it real good before you come!". He was nervous. "Take your time. Think it through. You can do it." Words to live by. And he spelled my name.
He spelled my name.
A n d r e a
And he didn't stop there. He spelled his son's name. The same son's name that he had never written before.
J a s o n
He spelled his son's name.
"Ask me them numbers and I'll spell 'em for ya. Go ahead, ask me. I studied them right hard."
So I asked.
"I tried, but that seven and eight, well, they's hard to learn." But he had mastered the other ones. I understood. Seven and eight are tough ones. Spell ten, I asked him. He spelled it without hesitation. Now say it, I said to him. Say it slowly and listen to the letters in it. T... E... N. He did. Now say seven.... S...E...V... see how it sounds like ten did in the middle... T...E...N........ S....E....V.... And now double the fun S... E....V... E...N. Forty-five minutes later and out of the blue I looked at him and said think of the number ten. Now spell seven.
And if you could have watched him smile and the light that turned on inside of him... it was like a satellite in space - small, but brilliant. By gawd I got it, he said. Yes, by God, you did.
On another note, I got spammed by Stuart McLean late this afternoon. I wrote him a note and he wrote me back. He's in town next spring and asked me to stay after the show and say hello. I really hope I remember.
The more I study the world, the more I am convinced of the inability of brute force to create anything durable.
Napoleon Bonaparte I