Her name was Maya. My very first tutoring client.
The one who wanted math help...in Algebra...and terrified me with her smart dreams of Ivy League colleges and well-spoken-ness.
The one who was organized and neat. She handed me a notebook I was able to understand almost immediately.
I knew suddenly that she had skills.
I could see her diligence to try and her desire to get it was present in her work. I also saw the gap. She was just missing a little something, a bridge, to get her from one point in the assignment to the next.
Her current work, while foreign to her, wasn’t nearly as terrifying for me upon closer inspection.
Let me repeat that!
When I looked closely at her current notes (and not the entire subject of Algebra!), what was foreign and impossible to her in that moment, wasn't so horrifying for me.
I saw it for what it was.
One concept, of many, in a subject known as Algebra.
Having decided that I wasn’t going to accept the agreed upon $35 session fee (as I knew this would be a bust), I was able to point out things that I felt were silly, stupid and obvious.
I stopped feeling overwhelmed, as though I had to have all the answers, and started to enjoy this smart, young girl beside me.
What I quickly learned, as I watched Maya smile and nod, bending her head as she quietly worked to solve a difficult problem based on my recommendations, is that tutoring was not about knowing everything!
In fact, tutoring was about so much more than the subject matter.
My terror and sweaty palms gave way to relief, and then inspiration, as Maya got one problem after another right.
She was thrilled.
I was shocked.
Her mom was serenely pleased from a distance.
All too soon, the hour was over and Maya was closing her books - assignment done and understood.
She politely asked for another appointment after expressing how much I’d helped her.
When I hesitated, she firmed requested a session for later that same week.
Her mother, with equal firmness, insistent I accept the $35 check she pressed into my hand. Then sweetly demanded a few business cards to pass along to her parent friends.
I told her I'd bring some with me next time while making a mental note to order them right away.
All too soon I was standing outside their front door, in the bright Florida sunshine, on the verge of doing a little, happy dance.