Z was a highly intelligent college sophomore, recommended to me by her psychologist. For years, she had suffered with MULTIPLE LEARNING DISABILITIES, undiagnosed until the middle of high school. When she came to me, she expressed an urgent wish to get her ideas across and to hand papers in on time.
Z'S LANGUAGE DISABILITY showed up in garbled idioms,
wrong prepositions, limited word choice and an easy slide
into cliché. She also had ORGANIZATIONAL DIFFICULTIES
and a poor WORKING MEMORY. Because of the latter,
she'd been advised to take copious notes. However,
they were too copious. Her voice was stifled
under an avalanche of notes. For this reason
and for her habit of repeating her thoughts, I understood
that she had not been listened to while growing up.
I encouraged her to talk through her ideas with me
before beginning to write. The ideas became clarified and
confirmed. A clear structure would emerge for her paper.
GRAMMAR improved with a systematic attack on the rules
through an invented game and practice with models.
In her struggle, she was given to adopting whole systems
of analysis from previous class readings. Writing, for
example, on the character of King Henry V in Shakespeare,
she doggedly tried to fit him into Machiavelli's mold.
I taught her to do CLOSE READINGS of a text and to employ
her own good judgment, scrupulously attending
to each word on each line. The papers she eventually wrote
received her professor's highest praise.
To sensitize her to words, we read and studied poems of
Wilfred Owen, Dylan Thomas (why raging moon, for example?)
and T. S. Eliot. Her ear became attuned to the search for
the right word, and she was inspired to write poems,
which then we would share. Writing poetry encouraged her
to write lyrics for the music she was composing.
In the summer, she took a job writing movie reviews.
Then off she went for her junior year in Europe.