I. I stop and try to fully understand what was just said. To be perfectly honest, I stop because I did understand it, I am just trying to decide how to react. But before I can think about it too much, I am laughing with my whole body, unable to maintain even a small semblance of professionalism. My eyes are wet, my stomach is aching and I can’t quite catch my breath. The shared moment of ridiculousness has united us, we are beyond teacher & class…we are insiders, sharing the joke that can never be translated; we have found ourselves in our own “you had to be there” moment.
II. I am unable to speak, because if I do, the ache that has swelled up in my throat will break and the tears that would flow out of me would overwhelm (and possibly terrify) not just the student sitting expectantly at my desk, but the other 20 students who are still quietly in their own writing spaces. The words–the poetry–that is on the page has surpassed my expectations; we are moved beyond student & teacher…we are, simply, reader & writer.
III. I turn around from my search for the perfect mentor text, ready to quiet the buzz that is disrupting the typical silence of our workshop, but I am stopped cold. The buzz is coming from intense peer to peer conferencing. They are engaged in actual feedback, papers between them, discussing context and word choice and other Big Ideas. They are going so far beyond what I prompted them with my “guide sheets” and conference question suggestions…they are, beautifully, writers, conferring with one another.
IV. They are texting. I know they are. They are texting instead of listening to me read and I know it and they know it and I am furious. So I yell. Loudly. And it gets their attention. I use my big teacher voice and cash in my authority chips. They slide their devices back to their hiding spots, look sheepishly at me, knowingly at one another, and pretend to be interested in the text. We are in our roles, me in the front, them in their seats.
V. I am here and they are wherever they go when we’re not in school. I have spent days trying to figure out how to do this. How to be all of this with space between us. I have thought about materials to give, words to write, books to hand out and I have accepted that I won’t have any of the interaction that makes us who we are. We will all be spinning around in our own universes, operating at our own speeds…there is no way to maintain community in a time of isolation. They are there & I am here.