I stood at the plate yesterday afternoon; my bat was in place, my eye was fixed on the ball. I swung and connected. It was a grounder to third, but I ran like nobody’s business and made it safely to first base. Phew!
When I showed up at the home of my ACT student — a high school junior who had just spent seven hours at school — I could see the reluctance in his eyes. He remembered; so did I. We hadn’t gotten very far last week. But we were both ready. I had come with a plan, and so had he. I had several strategies for our hour cued up on my laptop, but he beat me to the punch. “I did a practice test last night and scored it; here are my results.” Bam. It was a line drive to center field and I advanced to second.
I sorted his missed items into categories and we attacked them one at a time. I relentlessly tried to get him to understand what an appositive is, how to correctly show possession, and to understand the difference between active and passive voice. He hung with me. As the clock turned, his (and my) apprehension turned to satisfaction. As I started packing up, he said, “I’ll do another English test before I see you next time.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “That was a great strategy. Good job taking the extra time to prepare for our lesson.”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked to my car.
This morning, I met with the college-level student with whom my faux pas occurred yesterday. I arrived fifteen minutes ahead of her, I reviewed her lesson plan and goals, I gathered our materials, and I thought through our lesson. She arrived smiling and ready to work. Together we read and took notes. She gave me a summary and a main idea then answered questions. She connected with the ball and all the runners advanced as she safely made it to first.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. The bases were loaded.
My last student of the morning came to the plate. He was a bit distracted. He’s been working on a research paper for over two weeks — Leonardo da Vinci — and he’s had about enough. He’s eleven years old and he’s hung in there through research, note taking, MLA documentation, outlining, and even drafting. All the hard work is done, and he can taste the finish. He knows that when this paper is done we will move on to reading a novel, and he is ready. He eye is no longer on the research paper; it’s on the book. Our task for today was that I would type while he read his draft, editing as we went. Shoulda been a piece of cake. The pitcher wound up and threw one straight across the plate. My student was looking up at the stands. Strike one. The second pitch was just like the first, but my student didn’t even see it coming. He shook himself off, steadied himself and stared at the pitcher, but it was just a little too late to start paying attention. The curve ball came and he struck out. It’s ok. He needed a break any way. He got another turn at bat the following hour.
So I’m sitting on third waiting for the next player to warm up. I’ll see him today at 4:30. He’s another junior preparing for the ACT — nicest kid you’d ever want to meet. He’s really my designated hitter. His eye is always on the ball, he’s always warmed up, he sees the situation and is prepared to deliver. I’m thinking I’m going to score a run.
And then I’ll be right back up to the plate with another student at 6:00. Maybe she’ll strike out, maybe she’ll get a hit, heck, maybe she’ll even hit a homer. I hope so, this kid has been putting forth her best effort and has been called out time after time after time.
Maybe it’s good I got a little taste of struggle this week — a little reminder of what it feels like to fail. I didn’t like it. Nobody does. I need to remember that parents and students don’t hire me to come help when everything is going great; they call me because they need help. It hasn’t been going well. They need an encourager to come beside them and say, “Good job!” “You’ve got this!” “Stand like this. Hold your bat this way. Relax into your swing.”
“Come on, knock one out of the park!”
Success is so sweet after struggle, but getting from struggle to success takes determination and support. That is what I am learning from my students. They keep walking up to the plate because they want to hit the ball, but they wouldn’t get there without their fans cheering them on or their coaches stepping in to give guidance or their teammates believing they can. I forget that I need that support, too. I forget that I need my fans, my team, and my Coach. This week has been a good reminder.
“…we rejoice in our [struggle], knowing that struggle produces endurance,
endurance produces character, and character produces hope,…”