The classroom looks different for all us. Some are still all virtual. Some are hybrid. For those in school, things still are not the quite the same.
My desks are in rows. All facing the front of the class.
Never in my career has my classroom looked like this. I’ve had desks in groups, desks on either side of the room creating a center aisle (this is a popular design), tables, I’ve had couches and bean bags and recliners. But never this. So the kids up front are close enough to see me sweating and the kids in the back are not sure what color my shirt is.
Rightly so, we have been discouraged from walking amongst the children too much. I spend most of the time at the front of the room or at my new desk situation at the side of the room. I haven’t had a desk in my class for years. I keep all my personal things in a locker and all the things my students need in pink dresser. Now I use a bistro table and an ergonomically designed drafting chair as a desk area. I can see all the students perched from my chair. But I can’t hug them from here.
When I teach and look out at my students, most of them are wearing their masks. Now instead of standards and agenda on the board (those can be found online, specifically on Google Classroom), I have their 10-minute color-coded break schedule listed. I am especially proud of this very teacher-y idea of mine. Of course, students can take a mask break whenever he/she needs one, but I love the fact that I color coded the desks and the break times.
So, I see only their eyes. I can’t see them smile. I can’t see them scrunch their nose or twist their mouth or bite their lip—in frustration or confusion. I can’t read their faces like I used to. Do I need to repeat this, teach it differently? Does this child need something else, something beyond the lesson? I can’t see my students, not the way I am accustomed to seeing them. And it frustrates me.
But this past week, in second period I noticed something. This class is quiet, which makes it even more difficult to see them. I was at the front of the room, teaching. Looking over the room, searching my students for answers and questions, I saw something amazing. Their eyes.
Now, because of the masks, their eyes had become something more. I relied so much on their eyes to tell me so much. And now, I could see more than I could before. Of course, I have always seen my students’ eyes. Obviously. But now—how striking. How powerful. I had forgotten, or maybe had never realized, how much we can see in a person’s eyes.
It also struck me how fortunate I was to see these students eye-to-eye at all. With the uncertainty this pandemic has created and with the losses I have had in my personal life, I treasure every day I get to spend in the classroom with my teenagers. I also appreciate their willingness to wear a mask to protect themselves, each other, and me—and make it possible to be together at all.
As much as I possibly can, I will look for ways to see good in the hardships and tragedies of this pandemic. Seeing my students in a different way is wonderful, indeed.
Welcome to my Blog! I am a wife, mother of three, high school English teacher, and a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Before anything else, I am a woman of faith.