Monday, October 08, 2012

More Than Basketball

            Before my first tutoring session, I was very nervous about starting tutoring here. It seemed odd to me how nervous I was. While I’m no expert tutor nor claim some great ability as such, I had to remind myself that this was not my first time tutoring or even teaching. I had taught elementary, junior high, and even high school students before. I asked myself, “Why am I so nervous then?” This gave me the small boost of confidence I needed finally grab that white slip from the Office Assistant and get to work. Oddly enough, that first session was an exciting albeit typical tutoring session. I read the student’s name on the white slip aloud and my first tutoring session began.
            Whenever I meet anyone for the first time, I always try to learn something unique about them. My first tutee was no different. After sitting down with her, I tried to break the ice with chit-chat. She seemed nervous, as though I would leap upon her paper like a ravenous wolf and tear it to shreds. As we chatted, she said she’d come from China. Excitedly, I started speaking to her in Mandarin. She stared blankly at me after I asked her where specifically in China she lived. This blank response is fairly common, at least to me. After all, here I am – a tall, pudgy, Caucasian man – unexpectedly speaking Mandarin. I usually give the person with whom I am speaking a moment to realize they are not hearing something before repeating my question. She blinked, returning from wherever her mind had gone, and replied that she was from Shang Hai.
            A moment later, we were reviewing her personal narrative. Her essay recounted a basketball tournament in which her high school team played. Her high school team was the underdog. Unlike the typical American underdog story, her basketball team loses the tournament. At one point in her essay, she tries to use a Chinese idiom to explain her main point. She simply stated, “No brother no basketball.” This phrase made me pause and I asked her what she meant. After struggling to explain her intention in English, she asked me if she could explain her intent in Mandarin. I had no qualms with that and said she could. The basic explanation of her meaning was that without brotherhood, a team cannot play basketball nor can they succeed. While her team did not win the tournament, they learned the importance of working together to accomplish their goals. Yes, it does sound like the basketball version of Remember the Titans, yet these players and spectators were truly changed by this experience.
            When the tutoring session concluded, we chatted for a moment more. This experience has been generally repeated in all my tutoring sessions. Granted, not all the papers have been about basketball games, but each essay I've read, whether they were personal narrative or something else, has portrayed some meaningful event in each tutee’s life. Personally, I love a good story and love sharing stories, whether my own or someone else’s.


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