I’m a teacher. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be (other than a mom, of course). On most days I appreciate the fact that I have an opportunity to change the face of our future. I realize that parents send us the best kids they have, and I try not to cringe when we are reminded of that every year before the kids return to the regularly scheduled program otherwise known as free, public education. There are some days, however, where I want to invent a new code word, call in sick, and let the world fall apart while I watch the news in my pajamas to see how it turns out.
This is an example of one of those days:
Knowing that I have provided a study guide and time to prepare, I ask my teenaged bundles of angst to clear their desks for a previously scheduled test. Three of them immediately begin their list of why they would ultimately fail and how it was my fault for not giving them time to go home and read the one short and incredibly interesting poem they missed because they were absent the previous day. Attempting to keep my cool because they often stage mini-revolutions like this, I hand them the copies of the poem that I had already prepared for them and reminded them that they were going to the hall to read and prepare for this section of the test as a small group. Thus, the scholars were happy…
The rest of the class, having prepared and feeling fairly good about the situation, began their test. As the room became unbelievably quiet, we began to hear strange sounds from the hall. It would seem that these three worried young men, in fear that they would not understand this poem if they did not master the “beat” (meter) that the poet had chosen, had turned it into a piece of performance art. As they rapped the lines, and Alfred Noyes undoubtedly rolled in his grave, my previously silent testers began to laugh at their wayward classmates.
Shaking my head, I step into the hall. Student 1 continues his ultra-hip-hop rendition of “The Highwayman” while Student 2 does his best 80s style beat box. Student 3 assures me he told them not to do it. Shaking my head, I urge them to stop and tell me what they understand.
I ask them to start trying to explain it all from the beginning.
Student 1 argues that I should not expect them to understand it if I won’t read it to them.
Returning to the room, I urge them to try again, this time reading it more like the poet probably intended for it to be read. Leaving the door cracked, I can hear them taking turns, reading stanza by stanza. Then a crazy thing happened! Student 2, no longer impersonating a trap set, begins to explain to the others what is happening in the poem! I wait… they read… Students 1 and 3 explain some more. Who cares if the kids in the room are getting a total recap of the poem, the guys in the hall are learning!
I hear when they finish the poem and step out to guide them through the last few forgotten details. Student 1, no longer upset because I didn’t read to them, tells me something amazing. It seems he now understands how this education thing works.
His insight: All he has to do is pay attention and try, and he will understand!
(This explains why teachers are a little crazy.)