I am looking at the ten of you, sitting there, in various slouchy positions. You are teens. You are living in a covid world. I only see half your face and I only get that for half the time. When you are home, you are a name in a black box, except for the brief “I have to take attendance and make sure that you aren’t someone else” moment when we all log in.
We watch a whole thing on Generation Z. I put it into some context. I talk about seeing the world through your eyes. About the need to see the world through your eyes. I pleaded with you to find your voice, to be your voice, to use your voice. I forgive your silence because these masks block more than just a virus.
I give you your “You-Do” list, wait for any questions, and then send you into our workshop. I wait for the writing to begin. I wait for the tap tap tapping of the keys. I wait for the buzz of quiet conferencing. Instead I hear…
“Can we go outside again for another mask break?”
“When is this due?”
“I bet I can use that poem from last year!”
“Where is the list of articles?”
“Can we go outside again for another mask break? Please?”
Thank god you can’t see my face. You would see the tension building in my jaw and my lips pressed into a thin line, holding back my words. You would see my vitriol. My judgement. I am angry. You are not doing your job! I have given you my kinda brilliant mini-lesson on voice and I have connected the definition of Generation Z with the current writing portfolio project, “Taking a Stand.” I have made it relevant and just challenging enough to stretch your minds without putting anything out of reach. I am doing my job.
Thank god you can’t see my face. What are you hiding behind those masks? What are you missing? What do you need? I am grateful for the face covering. I am grateful for the imaginary distance that is greater than six feet. I am grateful for the restraint I am pulling from somewhere deep within me.
I am quiet. I let you find your way to quiet. Some of you do, eventually, start to write. Some of you will write later. Some of you will never write.
In a few weeks, I will see the writing. I will gasp out loud at the insight and I will berate myself for the many (many!) grammatical errors that found their way into your final pieces. Some of you will surprise me with what you complete and some of you will surprise me with what does not get completed. I will be repeatedly surprised by how little I know you.