Summertime and this Learnin’ is Easy

I’m on contact with two students right now, both graduated, both really different.

I’ve talked about Ben before. She’s a student I’ve really, really enjoyed and I’m delighted that she’s kept contact after graduation. It’s particularly good because she’s not emotionally ready for college yet, but needed to graduate from high school.

I’ve been texting with her over the last week, helping her hammer out the final form of a video that she’s been working on for a couple of months that connects color theory with educational theory. It’s pretty powerful and, once it’s submitted to the contest that she made it for, I hope she further refines it and starts making an entire series of these ideas.

The other is Georgia. Georgia was in a gang, but, to the shock of her family, was the first to graduate from high school and has gone from having a summer job at Dunkin’ Donuts to managing five of them in a year. She burst into school a few weeks ago, just before school ended for the year, with tears and hugs, saying that she wants to go to college, that she’s sick of working her ass off and not having money for anything but bills.

These kids both need a mentor, and I’m in a position to help. But the challenges for each are different.

Ben is living with a friend in their family’s basement. It gives her just the kinds of freedom she needs. She has the ability to come and go as she wants, has some privacy, and has people who support her directly above her ceiling. Her material resources are pretty slim but, as the pandemic reduces its hold on our society, she has possibilities for enriching work starting to line up.

Without the creative structure of school, she has taken to leaving a string of voice messages synthesizing a single idea out of the way schools teach about both Christopher Columbus and primaries colors, with Capitalism’s need to assert its certainty to establish dominance, and with the video game Night in the Woods. I’m very happy she’s building a coherent piece of art — perhaps a series of them — to express it. In less terrible times, she’d have a crew of cocreators more than her sister, but I’m pretty sure that will happen as she gains skills.

I have some concern for the intensity of the energy she’s releasing, but I think a lot of it is the excitement of being out of her family’s house for the first time.

Georgia has been alternating between enthusiastic contact and total silence. She’s mind-blowingly perceptive and intelligent, but has what I call “smart people problems”. She’s so used to having to figure everything out on her own, she doesn’t know how to ask for help. When she can’t make her own decisions based on what she already knows, she just fades.

I got her to come to school graduation a few weeks ago. It was great seeing her, and she loves that community. I’m hoping that we can help her start to understand the power of her network and the power of admitting she doesn’t know something. As soon as she hears something, she figures out how it fits into her model of the world, but she needs to learn how to look past the current limitations of her vision.

One of my great hopes is that, when the pandemic has sufficiently cooled, we can go to Boston museums for a day and eat something she’s never eaten before. The human mind has a hard time understanding scale, and if she starts to have a sense that the more she learns, the more she’ll know how to learn, it will suit her well in the course of her life.

I really like these kids. Wish me luck!