Cure for the Common Hangover: Silence

17 08 2006

Kendra and I went to Piola’s last night, a pizza place in town, only a few blocks away from our area. I had gone to Piola’s with Mandy last Friday night after the movie, but Kendra had never gone and was in the mood for pizza, and that’s the best pizza I’ve had since I’ve been here (though NOTHING compares to New Haven and New York pizza, sorry.)

We planned on staying only a little while. But our waiter was so friendly, and the bartender kept giving us drinks (after asking for our phone numbers via another server) that we ended up staying until almost 11. I knew I had so much work to do last night to prepare for today, but we were having so much fun laughing and talking and trying to decide when in the world we would ever part with our phone numbers. (Mom and Dennis if you are reading this, don’t worry. I gave out not a single digit.) I can’t even remember my number because it has 8 digits and that screws me up, so I don’t bother. I don’t care much for the phone these days because I panic whenever it rings, thinking I might have to speak in Portuguese…and we all know that’s a disaster by now.

So this morning, when I woke and hit the snooze button four times (I usually only hit it twice) I knew I was going to be neither bright-eyed nor bushy-tailed. Our drinks began with one round of caipirinhas, and ended up with two more of the same, four icecream/vodka shots, one beer, and one more frozen chocolate vodka-gin-rum-something-or-other drink. Thank god we ate the pizza; I would not have been able to stand.
But today was a Day 3 at school, which means I teach my full load. (My full load days are Days 1, 3, and 5. My awesome very fun and relaxing days are the even numbers, 2, 4, and 6.) I knew I had to get to school early so I could finalize my day’s plans and prepare materials, grab books and get situated before starting.
First period was great; Second period was great. But after those two full 80-minute blocks, I realized my voice was tired and I just wanted calm. After lunch, I had one more class for 55 minutes. My kids were OFF THE WALL crazy from having been able to run around at lunch and ingest sugar. I didn’t want to have to quiet them with my voice, which was already tired, so I simply looked around the room, waited for them to sit in their seats, and then wrote on the board: “Without speaking, tell me what you love about stories.”
Kids kind of giggled and looked around the room…but they’re 7th graders. They’re 11, 12, or 13, and they’re totally into these spur-of-the-moment games. It was fun. The kids played charades; they wrote on paper; they acted things out. They helped each other “show” what they loved rather than “tell” what they loved. And it worked. All of my kids were up out of their seats with their hands raised hoping I would point to them next.
They had calmed down immediately after I wrote that sentence, so I figured, “Hey…run with it. At least you’re not talking!”
And so I did. For 50 minutes solid, I didn’t use my voice a single time. And in that 50 minutes, even with no words, I introduced to them a diagram of the short story, elements of the short story, vocabulary from our first short story, and gave them homework to do along with suggestions of where to look for their assignment.
But the cool thing is that, when I was silent, I could hear them speak. I could really hear how they taught each other and helped each other understand what I was trying to teach. At one point, one of the girls said, “Oh, I know why you’re not talking! Because when we read stories, we have to be quiet!” So kids bounced ideas off of each other about why I wasn’t speaking…and all I could do was, with facial expressions, tell them that perhaps they were on to something.
But really, all I wanted was not to talk anymore.
My kids here ROCK. Because they really are kids. And they are allowed to be kids here. I think that’s what I like about working here–I am working with kids who, in every sense of the word, are just kids. Not forced to grow up so early, not exposed to things that steal their childhood from them. It is a nice change of pace from New Haven.
But I’m not going to lie, I miss my NH kids. I thought I saw two of them today–once on the way to school, and once on the way to capoeira tonight. I wonder how they’re doing?


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