In their silence I discover worlds. In Kailey’s silence I imagine beautiful inspiration as her fingers click-clack across the keyboard, words materializing on the screen, her life rising out of her, a summit of sentences whose beauty is masked by the black of their tracks, waiting to reveal color beyond bonds. In Elijah’s silence I fear the dark desperation hidden behind the blank illuminated screen that belies his deep empty well, bereft of beauty, absent of color, his words unable to break beyond the barrier of black. And, too, there is the silence of all, unique worlds cloaked in wonder, hidden in worry, and I am left to find sense in their sounds of silence.
But these moments are few in room 211. Silence is a rare commodity in the busy bustle of the 180 classroom, where learning is messy and noisy, both natural by-products of engaged kids. And so, it is the silence that strikes. And when it does, I am both found and lost, for it means all and nothing at once. This week there have been many such moments, moments that lack clarity as I am still learning my kids, and I am left to wonder–and worry–about my Kaileys and Elijahs. And my worry and wonder grow precipitously with each new sentence that reveals the story behind the kids in my seats, the kids who have triumphed, the kids who have failed, their lives now mine as I weigh their words, as I total their tales. And like that, I am transported into worlds where I am both blessed and cursed to carry the beauty of their success and the burden of their failure. This is teaching. It is not simply a fifty-five minute transaction in the static setting of four classroom walls. It is a lifelong connection to worlds across a dynamic divide drawn together by words often found in silence. Their silence. And in their silence, I hear, I learn, I live. And I respond.
This week from their muted mouths, I heard. I heard their stress, and I responded. Because I can. As I have said before, the difference between possible and impossible in the classroom is almost always the choice of the teacher. So I choose possible. The kids need more time on their essays, so I am giving them more time. Their silence as they have worked diligently all week screamed it, and how can I not hear, how can I not listen, how can I not respond? I work really hard to keep stress to a minimum in room 211, even to the point of gently admonishing kids for displaying signs of stress about my class. “No stress,” I tell them. But of course, my power is limited, for I cannot alleviate the stress that they experience outside my walls. But I wish I could. And I would because kids are too stressed, and as an adult who doesn’t always deal with and knows the dangers of his own stress, I am deeply concerned by the amount of stress our kids carry. And so, I do what I can to help. And sometimes, I even try to help beyond my four walls.
This morning, I came across this post in the Twiterverse, and it inspired me to do an activity with my kids.
I am going to head to the store this morning to purchase cups and gallons of water. I am going to give each kid a cup and ask him/her to write his/her name on it. I will then pass the gallon jugs around the room, asking each to pour some water into her/his. I will then share and read the Twitter post. I will finally ask each kid to walk up and place his/her cup on the table that I have put in front of the room. I will leave the cups there all day, so all of my classes can see the power of putting down the glass.
Undoubtedly, some kids will find it corny, but I know that with some it will resonate deeply in discovering that they are not alone and that they can take some control of their stress. It may not help all my kids, but if it helps some speak their silence, then it’s all worth it.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…put the glass down.
…move our writing farther down the path towards “due.”
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Friday, all. Hope you can put the glass down today. You deserve it.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.