Curmudgeon

Lucy Calkins sometimes tells students that they can write like a curmudgeon or write like the words are gold. Today, I had my second tutoring session with a student who is determined to be a curmudgeon. He says that he hates writing because he doesn’t like to share. Well, in a 1:1 setting, would sharing be so bad?

First tutoring session:

Me: So, T—, what did your mom tell you about why we are working together?

T—: (with a sneer) Nothing.

Me: What did she tell you about the work we did together last week?

T—: (with a louder sneer) Nothing.

I proceeded to point out many of the strengths I observed while doing initial assessments. And then, I mentioned that his mom and I felt that perhaps some work on writing would be fun. This student was on a computer for virtual school all year. He hasn’t had a real workshop experience in over a year. He’s an avid reader. He’s a great speller, and he has made it clear that he’s not buying what I’m hoping to sell.

Trying not to be intimidated by an 8-year old, I pressed on. In my teaching, I have often used the 5-minute quick write to build a bank of writing and to build writing stamina. I thought this would be an easy invitation to writing with the open topic, “Summer.” We talked a few minutes to prime the pump and I set the timer. We began and I wrote, too.

My writing took me back to fun summer evenings of my childhood and memories of neighborhood kids gathered for games of Hide-and-Seek, S.P.U.D., and jump rope. I could hear the ringing bells of the “Popsicle Man,” and could feel the stickiness of popsicles dripping down my arm. I remembered the bikes, wagons, and roller skates we shared and being chased by neighborhood dogs. I loved getting to stay outside until dark when it might be cool enough in our un-airconditioned house to sleep. It all came back in just 5 short minutes of writing. “I love writing,” I thought to myself.

T— wrote 38 words in the 5 minutes. He wrote something to the effect that summer should be for fun and other activities and “not this annoying writing thingy my mom is making me do.” I thanked him for his honesty, even though inside, I was wondering, “Am I annoying?”

Second tutoring session:

I hoped our second session would improve. Today, I gave him a choice of prompts for the quick write. (Choice is motivating, right?) He checked the box. Again, I wrote, hoping to model what “write the whole time” looks like. He wrote 9 words, 7 of which were the words of the prompt. My heart sank as I wondered what would help turn this relationship in a more positive direction. One voice tells me to discontinue–it’s been a hard year and this student will be successful when he returns to school. Another voice asks, could some writing support now help him be more confident when he returns to school?

What would you do?