Don’t lose sight of the big picture

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I have been tutoring this 13-year-old boy for almost a year. He is a special boy. A smart kiddo who has a very hard time concentrating on anything. He goes to one of the most prestigious elite schools in town, but he is constantly failing in almost every subject. His parents are both highly educated, busy working professionals who want to give him and his little sister the best they can offer.

This boy could well be the most challenging student I’ve ever dealed with. Although he hasn’t been diagnosed with ADHA, I do think he has some hyperactive tendency. He has a tough time to even sit still. He also has the worst handwriting in the world (yea, worse than mine). He lacks discipline and self-motivation. I’m not a special education teacher. At times, he does push my patience to the limit. Sometimes I have to throw away his “toys” (yes, he still plays with model cars and robots) to exercise my authority. With the leeway given by his parents, I’m allowed to assign him as much work as I wish. His pattern is to either finish 100% what I assign with 50% being totally crap or finish 70% with 50% being good work. I often tell him he shouldn’t be surprised if I die from a heart attack grading his work one day.

Despite it all, I love him dearly. He is definitely one of my favorite students. Granted, he lacks manners, he doesn’t say the sweet things like how I’m his favorite teacher to me like others, he misses his deadline, and he never remembers to put a period after a sentence. He is also the funnest kid to be around. Instead of being a know-it-all rebellious teenager, he is still an innocent child. He has the craziest ideas when it comes to writing. Sometimes he surprises me with excellent work or blatant honestly. I once asked him why he missed my deadline, he said, “Because I was lazy.” It left me completely speechless. :S How does one respond to that?

Today I began the class by grilling him on why he didn’t tell me about his school work. I wasn’t happy about him deceiving me, but he said he had finished all the work I assigned him. After I graded another supernatural short story written by him, I got this idea of turning all his stories into a book.

I told him once he has written 20 good stories, I could help publish them as a collection. He could even pick his own pseudonym like mine, Nicky English, and we could design the cover together. He was immediately intrigued and even proposed to write two stories a week! I asked him to dig out all the writing he has done for me to see how many supernatural/horror stories he has written so far. He excitedly pulled out two big folders. As we went through one by one, I was stunned by how far he has come.

His parents and I are always criticizing him for missing an “ed” here or an “s” there. I’ve forgotten how much improvement he has shown over the past 10 months. At the beginning he was unwilling to even do any homework assigned by me. I had to bargain with him and asked for him to just finish it without worrying about the quality. The improvement he has shown may not be significant enough to turn him into an A student overnight given all his schoolmates are like geniuses, but he does deserve to be commended.

I gave him a big applause and told him I’m very, very proud of him. I can’t wait to help him produce his very own short story collection.

This revelation put my perfectionist judgement into perspective again. Often we focus too much on the presence, on the flaws we can see right now. We lose sight of the big picture, of who we were when we started, of how much we have evolved from the older versions of us, of how awesome we already are compared to day one.

No matter how perfect we want to be, we will never be objectively perfect. It’s okay to have flaws. It’s called being perfectly imperfect. Every time when we feel self-defeating, just be happy about being better than who we were yesterday.

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About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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