A long time ago I decided not to grade my students on their creative writing, even though creative writing is what I teach. Grading someone on their talent usually means they’ll write what they think they they’re good at, smart at. Push out those boundaries, I tell them, try something new, something you’ve never tried before. Who knows what you might come up with? What they come up with is sometimes astonishing, and when they surprise themselves with it the whole room fills with light and energy and power. Smartness and talent are cool to witness and to experience, but beyond that, who cares? So many other things matter so much more. Like kindness.
– Jim Daniels
Today my son realized someone’s smarter
than him. Not me or his mom —
he still thinks we know everything —
one of the other kids, Nathan. Making fun
of him at the computer terminal
for screwing up at the math game.
Other kids laughing at him. Second grade.
I’m never gonna be as smart as him,
I’m never gonna be as smart
as half my students if we’re talking
IQs. He doesn’t want me to explain.
He wants me to acknowledge
that he’s dumb. He’s lying in bed
and taking his glasses off and on,
trying to get them perfectly clean
for the morning. I’m looking around
his dark room for a joke or some
decent words to lay on him. His eyes
are glassy with almost-tears. Second grade.
The world wants to call on him.
I take his hand in mine.
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