Wednesday, August 27, 2008


A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell
where his influence stops. ~ Henry Brooks Adams

I had another tutoring session tonight with Mark (the last before a two week break for Alaska!) and all I can say is, "thanks!"

Thank you to all the teachers who had the patience to instruct me throughout the years. Trying to return the favor now by helping my adult student learn to be a better reader is a real challenge. I am so grateful to those who did their best to get all this information into my young brain. My old brain is finding it tough to bring all that deeply buried data into the light of day!

One aspect of this tutoring process that I'm really enjoying is the chance to put my personal spin on how I conduct our time together. For instance: if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know by now that I love quotes. So I open every tutoring session with a quote. Here's the one I used tonight:

I started this a few weeks ago, showing Mark an uplifting quote, then asking him what he thought it meant. Now that I've explained what paraphrasing is all about, I ask him to paraphrase the quote for me. Then we discuss whether the quote is literal or figurative. I'm finding quotes to be a great teaching tool, and I'm hoping some of their messages are getting through to my twenty-year-old incarcerated student.

As Mark has grown to trust me, I've learned that he is prison with a felony conviction for armed robbery. He'll be released in December, right before Christmas. The other night, he mentioned in the context of a passage we were studying that his first trip to juvenile hall happened when he was eleven years old. Eleven! I find it all so hard to imagine. I truly hope that he's ready to turn his life around and put all that behind him. I hope he's strong enough to do so.

Mark is working hard to learn to write essays, a skill he'll need to pass his GED. Right now, I've got him working on an essay comparing and contrasting the poetry of Langston Hughes with the lyrics of Tupac Shakur - Mark's favorite rap artist. Even stodgy old me has to admit that there are quite a number of similarities. I'm glad I thought to give him this assignment: he's finding it fun to do, and I like watching his face light up when he thinks of another topic sentence.

Tonight we discussed synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and homophones. Oy - my brain hurt by the time I left! But to help him work on increasing his vocabulary, I took in a little gift for him tonight:

He seemed genuinely touched by such a small thing, and I wondered if anyone had ever given him the gift of a book? I hope these help him come to believe in himself a bit more. He's such a bright young man who has made some monumentally stupid mistakes in his short life.

So, as the kids are heading back to school, I once again say thanks to all teachers. I can't imagine the many hours you put in, preparing lessons and staying late. I know you don't get paid anywhere near what your profession is worth. But I'm so grateful for all you do, for all my teachers did for me. I am a passionate reader and a decent writer, and I have a life-long love of learning. I'm hoping that I can pass along even a small piece of this to Mark.

Until next time...


Susan said...

You are inspiring me. Maybe this is something I could do. I was a teacher so maybe I could tutor someone like Mark.

Hanlie said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post. You are always an inspiration!

Nonna said...

What a wonderful gift you are giving to Mark! Your an inspiration to others!

Kathy said...

How fortunate is this young man to have you in his life! Too bad there were not more positive influences in his life prior to that run-in with authority when he was eleven.

Manuela said...

You know, this post is exactly why I want to be a teacher.

I love your idea about the quotes and what a wonderful influence you must be having on this young man.

(I'm feeling better!)

Scale Junkie said...

I love that you've been able to teach him to not just read but to understand what he reads. Comprehension is something that is often overlooked. He is very fortunate to have you in his life. Thank YOU Pattie for taking the time to do this.

Manuela said...

Hey, you have to come back and visit again :) I've added to my post today.

Becky said...

You are wonderful, Pattie! I think that young man really appreciates your help and expertise. Have a great trip in Alaska!!

Susie said...

Hi Pattie,
I think your joy at helping Mark is one of the reasons people choose teaching as a profession. I see this same attitude in my daughter. It's a real gift, because, as you say, people don't go into teaching for the financial rewards!
I'm catching up here and wanted to tell you I just read an article in the paper yesterday about the halibut fishing in Homer! Looks like it's renowned for that!
I know you'll both enjoy the trip!

Rayann said...

Mark is so luck to have you as a teacher! I know he'll do just fine on his GED. You're such an inspiration, I'm lucky to have you in my life.

Wendy said...

You are making the world a better place just by being in it. I think what you doing is just fantastic.

Blessings, Wendy (another quote lover!)

Deborah said...

WOW! What a wonderful post.

How lucky Mark is to have someone like you that cares about him.

new*me said...

He is so lucky to have you come into his life, Pattie! I have had some awesome teachers in my life who made a huge difference in the way I saw the world around me. Teachers have such a great opportunity to give back and one day it will come back to them. I hope it will come back to you one day too!

PEA said...

I've always said that teachers never get paid enough because when you think of it, being able to teach us so that we learn how to read, spell, do math, priceless!! What you're doing for Mark is wonderful, finally he'll feel like someone has faith in him and show him that he can learn. xoxo

jillytacy said...

Mark is lucky to have you as his teacher! You get one of the most important things about can't teach anything until you make a connection with your student and they know you care. Once you have that the rest falls into place. You've done that with Mark and he is better for it. Congratulations you're a teacher now and making a difference!

carla said...

can you believe how quickly tutoring mark has become your new routine?
how NERVE WRACKING it was initially?

you are inspiring.


Needled Mom said...

Mark will have gained so much from what you are doing because of your genuine love and caring to help him. I know that he will be appreciative for the rest of his life and I so hope that this will allow his life to be different when he gets released.

I know that you are busily packing and getting prepared for the big trip. Have a fabulous time. I look forward to getting together once you return and hearing all about your experiences.

Becky said...

Hi again, Pattie! I know you are on your way to Alaska, but when you get back you have been tagged!! Rules are on my blog... hope you decide to play along.
~ Becky

debby said...

Wow, I am really inspired by what you are doing. How worthwhile to have the chance to possibly change the course of someone's life.

Have a blast in Alaska!