Sunday, May 23, 2010
Bird Songs and Student Words
At five this morning, the tunes the first birds were singing around my neighborhood started me thinking about my students and the words they speak in English class. The songs of the birds were of every possible variety, and so are the students’ spoken words. Some birds sang softly almost to the point of being soundless, just as some of my students share their thoughts like shy squirrels squeaking from behind a bush. Other birds this morning were making the proudest of melodies, pouring out music as if they personally had possession of the entire town, which made me think of students whose voices seem to rise up with earnest confidence when they speak. Some birds sang in short chirps of sound followed by long moments of silence, just as some students say a few distinctive words and then rest in the ease of stillness. And surely there were birds stationed in trees who sang no songs at all, but simply sat on limbs and listened and looked, like the kids in my classes who stay still from start to finish, perhaps finding some special serenity and inspiration in their silence. We need them all, of course – all the various bird songs (even the silent ones) and all the numerous ways my students speak or stay quiet. We need, in equal measure, the soft and noisy birds and the shy and strident students. It’s the mixture, the bizarre assortment, that makes the music of springtime birds and youthful students so extraordinary.