ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 85, Friday, January 25, 2008
Today we had exams, and during one of the 8th grade tests, I listened on my iPod to the lovely allegro movement of Beethoven's violin sonata #5. It was, to say the least, a strange experience -- listening to such beatific music while my students were laboring through a painful exam. Every so often I would pause the music -- the exquisite playing of the violin and piano -- and look out at my stern-faced, hunched-over students as they scratched away at their exams. In my music there was harmony and perfection; in the faces of my students there was tension and torture. The music was heaven for me, while the exam was obviously a little like hell for the students.
On Fridays, we sometimes play a song toward the end of class, and the kids listen and do a little creative (we call it 'freestyle') writing stemming from the song. Today, at Jeena's suggestion, we listened to "Bowl of Oranges" by Bright Eyes. It's an unusual and puzzling piece, and some of the kids quickly got lost trying to understand where the song was going. Others, though, (including me) enjoyed it a lot, and soon I saw pencils skimming over their papers. As they wrote and listened, I studied and annotated the lyrics (we had printed copies), and found more and more interesting ideas buried there. After a few minutes, I read their writings aloud (anonymously), as I always do, and as usual, some of them were tender, lyrical, and profound. It's a little bit of magic that happens every Friday in my room.