I just completed my second semester as a volunteer literacy tutor at my local high school for adult students for whom English is a second, third, or fourth language. This term I tutored a factory worker from Belarus named Dzmitry. It sounds cliche but over the last ten weeks I learned a lot more than I taught.
It was clear from the start that Dzmitry likes to ask questions. He craves knowledge, wants to know why, desires the bigger picture. But he often meets resistance.
“People don’t like me asking questions,” he said, half-amused, half-resigned. “And I have many questions.”
After hearing this, I took it upon myself to let Dzmitry ask away. We never rushed through assignments but instead picked apart paragraphs and sentences, words and syllables. He wanted to overcome his accent. I told him it is part of him, that it’s nothing to hide. Above all, I gave him the freedom to inquire, to seek both the trees and the forest.
I was thrilled to find someone comfortable with uncertainty. Life is really messy and there’s a lot of shit to dig through, but it’s great when someone offers you a shovel and you take it.