He didn’t know the word when his finger ran across it as he read aloud.    “Per…snik….ity.”  He sounded out every letter with care.  Then he dashed his eyes up towards his mentor to see if he had said it correctly.

She smiled and nodded, thinking he would just move on.  But “M” stopped.

“What does that word mean?”

And the mentor thought for a moment, “How do I explain the word persnickety precisely?”

With a quick Google she replied, with the correct pronunciation, “per·snick·et·y – requiring a particularly precise or careful approach – or – placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy.”

The mentor went on to explain that a “persnickety person” would be someone who paid attention to every detail…measured everything…made sure everything was just perfect and best in class.  She found herself defining meticulous and precise.  Then she added the extra nuances like, “overly attentive to a topic, too focused, nitpicky.”

And “M” summed it up in one simple sentence.  “Like freaking out when I got a C on a test when everyone wanted me to get a B…and I really knew the stuff, I just am not good at taking tests. Sometimes we all get a little persnickety about my grades!”

The mentor just smiled and nodded her head again.  “M” was such a smart boy.  As his mentor she had grown to truly care for him.  She laughed remembering when she often talked about his grades and wanted him to be just as good or even better than the other kids in the class.  She guessed she might have been a little “persnickety.”

But those days are gone.  Today she is obsessed with progress and incremental improvement…not competition for grades.    She explained, “When I started I thought I had to catch him up with the other students. I now realize that just helping a little and loving him is all that matters. He needs to just learn to like to learn and know that he can. God will do the rest. I pray for him and that is the greatest thing I can do.”