Learning Greek in English

It’s the beginning of the high-school semester; I have very few students.  Last night I was at the tutoring centre, and ended up with an Incredibly Bright Kid who is in Grade 8 and a Child With Potential who is in… um, Grade 6, I think.  Child With Potential is working on improving her writing skills (some ESL effects but mostly a lack of exposure to the written word), and the light bulbs are glowing on a regular basis.  Incredibly Bright Kid was working on something to do with mistreated minority groups in Canada, but was getting side-tracked by the history of gay rights and Greek mythology.  (Rumour has it that other tutors don’t have such conversations in their rooms, and I sometimes wonder if it’s a good thing it always seems to happen in my room.)  The history of gay rights went right over CWP’s head but her little ears perked up when IBK asked about Greek mythology.  The pencil went down, and her head swiveled back and forth between IBK and me, as if his questions and my answers were tennis balls.  We got her hooked.  I’ve promised to bring in all the mythology books next week.  We ended the class by writing the Greek alphabet – which only strained my brain a little bit….

I want to take them all out of school.  I love their little grinning faces as they whip through another book looking for information, or when they shove each other’s hands out of the way because the other one isn’t googling fast enough.  I like the way the other students poke their heads into the room ’cause they heard the name “Olympus” and have to see if it refers to the Greeks, the sports or Twilight (and, by the way, how come we use the same word for all of them?)

The thing about student-led learning is that it always ends in learning.  The thing about teacher-led learning is that it’s hit-and-miss.  I don’t mind playing around a bit until I find something the kids like, but I don’t like the misses; they strike me as a colossal waste of time.  If the student has decided to learn something, it will be in their head forever.  I still dredge up things from when I was 10 years old and casing my parents’ bookshelves for things I thought I wasn’t supposed to read (there’s a really cool chromosomal disorder called Cri Du Chat; I thought I’d found the Holy Grail or something).

I want the kids to get the same high out of learning that I get out of watching them learn.  They’ll figure out how to slog through the boring things later.

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