In my introductory college skills class this quarter, a student told me about repeatedly sabotaging his final Naval promotion because at that level, he’d be required to write reports galore. Writing terrified him. This week he submitted his report on this quarter’s learning–one of the best reports I’ve ever received. It was thoughtfully written, and formatted and illustrated with accuracy and artistry. Here’s my favorite paragraph: “This is how I learn best: learn, then apply, then do it all over again. When I was in school, I felt like the teachers asked me to put a bike together that had tons of bolts, screws, and nuts and only gave me a fork and told me to put it together in the dark. Now I have the tools and I can see.”

I cried. Now that’s a teacher payday! This is why we do it, so these beautiful, brilliant people can see what we see in them, and achieve what we know they are capable of.

The student must show up and submit to the work, and it helps if that student arrives humble and scared, but willing. Once again, I’ve seen the proof that writing is a learnable skill. And got to feel like the miracle worker. (That would be the student, really, but I did show him how.)