Since retiring, I have been doing a little tutoring to help make ends meet. It has been interesting, surprising sometimes, to see how academic work assigned in a class gets translated through the eyes of a particular student. Having been a teacher, it is enlightening to see how a student grapples with what a teacher has assigned.
Tutoring so far has been quite awesome. The ability to pour 100% of my effort into one student at a time as opposed to homogenizing it to work for myriads of students simultaneously, all of whom learn differently from each other, has actually been quite refreshing and liberating.
One student I work with, I actually taught last year in the 8th grade — a quiet, engaging, and bright young man, who didn’t always express himself fully or completely. He really came alive as a student twice last year—once during our research project when he discovered the wonderful photographer Jun Fujita and the second time when we read All Quiet on the Western Front and studied World War I. Over the summer he emailed me with information about a book he had discovered, Company K. He had read it and thought it was an amazing book about World War I. In fact, he said, he read it many times, each time a different person’s story catching his attention. He had an original copy, one that belonged to his grandma’s great aunt. I was touched by his email in which he encouraged me to find a copy and read it.
This novel, written by William March, which includes 113 vignettes by different Marines from the same unit in WWI, is considered by some to be the strongest American literary piece which grew out of the war, according to Wikipedia. It was first serialized in The Forum between 1930-32 and in 1933, all the vignettes were published together as a book.
Today, at our first tutoring session, he lent me this book. The very book owned by his grandmother’s great aunt. I was humbled and honored that he wanted me to read it and that he trusted me with this very precious copy.
I think about connections. And relationships. Generosity too. And the abiding wonder of how we reach out to one another.
I will begin reading Company K tonight. Slowly. Carefully. Sensitively. Eagerly, but gently handling this unexpected gift.