Saturday, January 24, 2009

Words Explaining Words

The word educate comes from the Latin word educare, which means 'to lead'. As an educator, everything I read or experience becomes a potential lesson to lead my student from the known to the unknown. On Friday mornings I tutor Domenica, a sixth-grade girl with above-average intelligence. Her struggles concern vocabulary and reading comprehension, with each problem rooted in the other. Domenica is a literalist. The words on the page literally mean what they say. Yesterday we read several fables together. They seemed, to her, very strange. Her first comment was, "They're short!" Then, "Why is there a fox in so many of them?" As we discussed symbolism and meaning I realized I was using words to explain words; that as she acquired a new vocabulary word, that word had literal meaning, surface without depth. Sitting here now, journal open, books scattered, I realize there are moments when she becomes the teacher and I the student. She leads me to new questions. I don't want Domenica to think exactly as I do; to be a mini-me. God created her uniquely for a specific purpose that no one else can accomplish. My prayer is that I can help her become a better literalist, one who understands that while specific words are best, sometimes an appropriate word-picture can lead us deeper. Next Friday we will read a few of Jesus' parables.

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