Recently I parked my car funny, a bit over the line. Worried about the ramifications of improper parking, I backed up to straighten things out. That’s when my front tires got stuck in the ridiculously high curb filled thick with ice. Stepping on the gas moved me nowhere.
I couldn’t help but think about Dzmitry, my student at the volunteer literacy program I attend once a week. He had complained that night that I follow the rules too much. I should be more flexible, he said, especially if tutoring is my intended profession. This made me feel inadequate, a dopey conformist addicted to the status quo.
It was almost as upsetting as being stuck in a curb.
To free myself from this precarious half-parked position, I had to move the steering wheel, improvising on the spot. Just flooring it and hoping for the best were not working. A turn here, a turn there: steady corrections were required.
I was in a rut with Dzmitry too. My lessons had stalled. We were spinning our wheels. I’d have to change the routine, liven things up, tailor instruction to his needs instead of following some bland script. My role was to be less an imparter of knowledge and more a companion on our journey through language.
Getting out of jams can be tough. Sometimes we need a little ice or a bored student to teach us to correct our approaches, especially when we’re positive the old methods aren’t holding us back.