Friday, June 04, 2010

Signs and Wonders

Somewhere in the Bible the phrase “signs and wonders” is used, and this morning, for some reason, I began thinking about it, and about the signs and wonders in my work as a teacher. More and more I find my classroom to be a place of amazement and marvel. My students are your standard, mainstream teenagers, and yet there’s something singular and distinguishing about them – some strange inner exhilaration that makes them sparkle in unexpected ways. I notice it almost every day – the way one student’s eyes twinkle in new ways, the way another student’s shirt seems to stand out in the eastern light from the windows, the way a girl’s bracelets bring brightness into the room. Just yesterday, during a discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I noticed the shifting patterns of sunlight on a student’s face as he spoke of Juliet’s sorrow, and then the graceful turn of a classmate’s head to listen. Mind you, I’m not always this observant; in fact, more often than not I go through a class with something like blinders on. I push through the steps of the lesson with severe resolve, rarely noticing the sorrow or high spirits or dreariness on faces, or the way someone’s chin rests on her hand, or the way Billy’s eyes speedily blink as an exceptional thought takes place inside him. Sometimes, luckily, I do see the signs and wonders that are surely always present, like last week when a girl gave all of us a completely fresh understanding of Juliet’s father. As soon as she finished speaking, it was like thoughts had been set alight around the room. I could see it in faces, the flush that comes with the rise of a new awareness. It was a dark day outside, but Room 2, for those moments, was a sunny place to be.

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