Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Slice of Life: Pressing the Pause Button

Today was just one of those days. When you teach middle school, you quickly realize that your students are often a barometer for society as a whole. As my students trickled in this morning, after a crazy election night, their emotions were raw and palpable, some masking with humor, while others were in disbelief. I knew that we needed to just press the pause button for awhile.

My initial idea was to just give them space and time to write about whatever they'd like to write about, be it their reaction to the election or anything else that was on their minds. But after a quick poll of my students, I realized most needed more time to process. The emotion was too close still for many, and while writing can be a way to sort through your feelings, sometimes, distance is necessary. I get that.

So, instead, I finished reading Orbiting Jupiter out loud to all of my classes. We totally fell behind the Global Read Aloud schedule, but I knew we'd have to finish such a wonderful and powerful book. Today, it felt very appropriate, given Orbiting Jupiter's themes of acceptance of those who come from different experiences and backgrounds.

During this time, everyone got comfortable, making full use of my motley crew of lounging accouterments: pillows that my mom made for me out of fabric scraps, patio furniture cushions given to me by the 8th grade science teacher, and the cheap IKEA blankets that I bought for $2 each.

My students listened as I read like I always do: dramatically, with changing voices and added gestures that let students visualize exactly what Gary D. Schmidt wanted them to see. I've always been a bit of a performer, so I enjoy reading for my students.

As I read, I glanced up from time to time (by fourth hour, I had started to memorize parts), and I loved looking at my students' faces, rapt with the richness of the story. When Joseph's father showed back up, you could hear a pin drop as I read about the situation that spiraled out of control. When Jupiter says "Jackie" for the first time, everyone sighed. And when Jack promised Jupiter that he'll always know where she is, I got a little teary. So did a few others.

My voice is raspy now. My feet hurt from standing and performing for four hours straight.

But it was so worth it to listen to some excellent writing, escape together and press pause. Just for a little bit.

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