Reading Outside Your Zone

I just got home from work, annoyed. I love the nights when I can come home, shake off my irritants, and find that Mike has cooked the food I prepped for dinner, and Nick has done some of the work he knew he needed to accomplish. Wow! It’s a good night.

Annoying students’ faces fade into the background. I get to read. I can try to catch up with the areas where I’m behind.

I need to unlock Nick’s college funds, help him transfer credits from two other universities, finish piecing his college quilt, and practice my math for the days when my coworker leaves and I’m left helping students with calculus. I don’t really want to update my math, but I intend to be prepared. I’d really rather read and write than practice math.

I need to tell you about my brilliant student. It’s as challenging to work with a brilliant student as it is to work with a student who struggles.

This kid is in eighth grade, but has a vocabulary that’s beyond tenth grade. His comprehension is beyond twelfth grade. I told him to read Stephen Hawking and he did. He understood it more clearly than I did. I love working with this guy, but he keeps me on my toes. None of our existing material is challenging enough for him, so I have to push him beyond on my own. I have to push beyond where he is. It helps that he’s an eager learner, but I feel like a fourth-grader trying to teach sixth-grade math. What I do know is how to help him pick amazing books in science so he can begin his career now. And I get to tell him to write, to keep a notebook. He’s an adept writer, but he needs to be pushed to write more, to push his own mind in ways that writing about something seems to require.

I want him to write his ideas down in one place, to begin to keep track of his thoughts the way Leonardo Da Vinci did. I loaned him a book by Henry Petroski, Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America. I haven’t read it yet. I loved Petroski’s To Engineer is Human and The Evolution of Useful Things. Nerd alert. I love reading stuff like this. I told this student to write in pencil in the margins of the book. He said he won’t do it. I said that it would help me understand what had an impact on him. It would. I should read, chapter by chapter, along with him. Yeah, that would be good for both of us.

And I need to look up a list of books for scientists.

Here’s my list:

Carl Sagan

Stephen Hawking

Jules Verne

Da Vinci

Henry Petroski

Dr. Oliver Sacks

David George Haskell

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Isaac Asimov

I’m sure there are more, but that’s my preliminary list. I’m going to sit down and read now. I’m going to try to stay a chapter ahead of my brilliant student. I’m going to write in the margins. I’m going to write about building bridges.I love the metaphor. Hopefully, I’ll take my brilliant student outside his comfort zone.I know I’ll be outside mine.

Maybe you should read outside your comfort zone too. We can all be uncomfortable together.

Thank you for listening, jules