And then you have to like, be nice to people and that. To your buddy, he said.
To your buddy? I said.
Yeah. Everyone has a special buddy in class who they have to be nice to, otherwise nobody would be nice to each other ever. But as soon as you are nice to somebody they say YOU’RE MY SECRET BUDDY AREN’T YOU? And then you get in trouble because it’s supposed to be a surprise at the end of the year. But it’s stupid because like, it’s not as if everyone in the world is nice to each other, like you’re on your phone at the bus stop and then hang up to turn around to everyone to say, Oh, hello. Hello! Hello. It’s just not even like, realistic.
I said, I like being nice. It makes me feel good. Doesn’t it make you feel good?
Of course it makes me feel good, he said.
‘What did you do at school today?’
‘I had a violin lesson.’
‘Oh yeah? And how was that?’
‘Are you good at the violin?’
‘I don’t believe you.’
‘It’s true. I’ve been playing a long time, like almost a year. I’m alright.’
‘I mean I don’t believe you because I think you’re being modest. Do you know what that means, modest?’
‘Oh. Do you want me to tell you what it means?’
‘If you don’t know something, you gotta ask. You could get to like, 18, and not know a whole bunch of stuff because you didn’t ask.’
‘How old are you?’
‘What does model-est mean?’
‘Modest means like, when you try to play something down. If I come in here all, “Oh girl, look at your jeans! They’re the best jeans I’ve ever seen!” If you were modest you’d get a little shy, try to act cool, like, “Nah, these are old jeans. They’re not so special.” Even if I was right.
‘Like when you asked me if I was good at violin. I should have said I’m better than all right.’
‘If it’s true that you’re average then it’s not modest, it’s truth. But if you’re pretty good at violin, or even the best in your school, then it’s okay to say that. If you’re really good and pretend you’re not, that’s modest.’
‘Were you being modest?’
‘You’re actually pretty good at violin?’
‘Yeah, I’m pretty good.’
‘Pretty good, or really good?’
‘Better than pretty good but less than really good.’
‘A solid “good”, then.’
‘Can you tell me that? If I ask you again will you tell me the truth? Are you good at violin?’
‘Say it! Say, “I’m good at violin.”’
‘I’m good at violin.’
‘I’m good at violin!’
‘I’M GOOD AT VIOLIN!’
‘Does it feel good to say that?’
‘Yeah, it feels good.’
Ohmygod, you are like, proper well funny and that. My volunteer ain’t funny at all, like whatever, boring. But you’re proper funny. When do you like, come in and that, like, what day do you volunteer? ‘Cuz I wanna come in on the day that you is here, but like, I need to know before so that I can dress funky. I wanna wear a headscarf like yours but my mama won’t let me. Can I try on your glasses? They look well good.
He’d to fill out his log, six sections. Homework completed. Reading done. Workbook pages undertaken. What went well. What could be better. Volunteer comments.
He picked up his pen to write, but I asked him to put it down. ‘I wanna talk about what went well today,’ I said. He told me he liked learning how to do funny voices in his reading, that practicing going slower was good because then he understood more of the story, and it was also good that he’d made me, his volunteer, laugh.
‘Yeah, I think you were awesome at reading today,’ I said. ‘You tried really hard, and it paid off.’
Then I asked him what he could do better for next time. Without missing a beat he said, oh, I have to concentrate more. I never listen.
Never listen? I said. I said, If you'd concentrated even one iota more, your head would’ve exploded all over the room. Your concentration today was brilliant.
He told me everyone always says he has to concentrate more.
I explained that just because that’s what everyone normally says, it didn’t mean it was true today. I asked him if he could pick something else to improve on, something that was specific to today’s session.
He said he wanted to be as good as today at every session. That would be his new goal. To always be this good.
Great, I said. Great.
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