Self-tutoring about a smart man I met when we were both children.
I met Larry when I became his project. I was new at the school, grade four, just at the start of spring.
“We need to get you set up for your expo,” he said. “Come with me to the office.”
We hadn’t “expos” at the school I’d come from. Larry asked me some questions, then handed me off to the vice principal at the office, who wrote me in to the expo Larry recommended.
Surprisingly, Larry wasn’t an administrator or teacher. He was a kid in grade four, in the class I’d recently joined. How he could bring me to the office and recommend my expo to the staff, who would go with his advice, seems unbelievable now. Then, though, it made sense. Larry had a bearing you just accepted, no matter who you were.
Larry knew, logically, that I wouldn’t have friends at the school, being new. No problem — he became my friend, hanging out with me at recess. Lunch he often disappeared somewhere, so I was on my own. Gradually, though, I met other kids: part of being elementary-aged is that meeting other kids is easy. Kids don’t understand the barriers that will separate them as adults.
Larry tapered off, spending only a couple of recesses with me per week. By then I had other acquaintances, so perhaps didn’t need his intervention. I wonder if he sensed as much, which was why he spent less time with me. Yet, I could always find him when I needed to.
Larry’s interests were very different from mine. He loved horror and action movies – ones I wouldn’t be allowed to watch for years to come. I eventually did discover what he did at lunchtime: he sat with kids I didn’t know, exchanging gross stories about people barfing, etc. Larry could do so without losing his appetite, but I couldn’t, so I sat elsewhere.
Grade four ended and summer came. That fall I returned to school like I belonged there, happy to start grade five and see who would be in my class.
The school where I met Larry was a big elementary school, with 700 or so kids. Therefore, it had places a given student would never go, and many events each week that you’d only hear of. I would realize as much because in grade 5, Larry was in my class – or was he?
I’d say that certainly, for the first week, Larry was in class. I believe he sat in the far right row, second from the front. Our teacher was ethnic Anglo-Saxon; her family had been United Empire Loyalists, up from New England after the Revolutionary War. She liked hard work and order. She had taught for decades and was nearing retirement. God bless her, she seemed unprepared for Larry.
When Larry was around, he attracted attention, not even meaning to. More and more, though, his seat was empty: the class would drone quietly on, the kids taking notes or working from their textbooks, without Larry among us.
Larry would show up in the morning, but find a way to leave class and not return. To my knowledge, he lived miles away; he couldn’t likely just leave the school. Yet, he found daily adventures that kept him from the classroom.
A typical scenario might play like so:
Friend: Larry…where were you this morning?
Larry: I met a kid in the hall who’d lost their colouring picture…I had to help them find it. We went to the boiler room, in case it had been thrown out by mistake….
I had been one of Larry’s many projects. He found more all the time, so attended class “less”.
I began to wonder if Larry had really been in my grade four class, or just seemed to be. Apparently he could enter or leave a classroom at will, and go places in the school – with staff support – where no kid was normally allowed.
Such is the genius of Larry that he could move so freely in a regimented environment. Lots of other kids wanted to leave class and wander around, but were stuck there. I never saw Larry get in trouble for his absence from class, or even get asked about it by an adult.
I saw one creative writing story by Larry, whose subject matter was much beyond what I conceived then. He read (horror books). I can’t recall his mentioning anything about math. When Larry did appear, he’d be cheerfully chatting about his latest adventure, or the movie he’d seen the night before.
Larry’s absence became the norm, and kids accept reality pretty fluidly: only as an adult have I thought back, and marveled at, Larry’s ability to shape the school’s rules.
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane,
Campbell River, BC.