Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Puddles of Sunlight






It's the end of the semester at the community college where I teach.  

You can see the stress on the faces of both students and teachers.  I look at the stacks of papers I need to grade and wonder how I will ever get them all done. I am tired and my eyes hurt.  I am probably not as patient as I should be in answering the same questions over and over again.  

Meanwhile, students are working on still more and projects to turn in.  Their nerves are frayed as well.  They come to class looking tired, hassled, and discouraged.  They wonder why all these teachers are not as patient as they should be.

The other day in my Intermediate Composition class, after a review for the final, we had about 20 minutes of class time left.  I had a board game in my cabinet and I suggested we play it.  The students moaned and groaned and it was clear they were ready to leave.  So, I said whoever wanted to stay and play it could and whoever wanted to leave could do so. 

 I told them it would be FUN!  That we would have a GREAT TIME!  However, to be honest, a little part of me counted on them all leaving so I could grade a few more papers before I went back to my office and grade even more papers.  

To my surprise, some of my students stayed.  Sure, some were the students I had grown to know best, but others surprised me and gathered around the board too.  Some had to be cajoled by their friends to join in on the game, but they consented and stuck around.

Now, I grew up with board games and made them a regular part of our family when my kids were growing up, but I could tell that a lot of these students had not played board games for a very long time. 

(Many of them were 18-19 year-olds and, well, board games are just not cool, I guess and playing a board game with your English teacher?  Forget about it!)  I joked about there being no controller, no flashing lights and told them they would get used to it.

So we started playing a very simple game called "Blurt." I looked at the clock, figuring on one quick game and then I could get back to that grading. 

Perhaps English teachers get to know their students better than teachers of any other discipline.  Though I would not claim to know my students well, I do read what they write to me and they often reveal their pasts or the struggles they are having in the present.  

When I looked around the board, I not only saw the mixture of students that only comes together at a community college, I saw their stories too.   Carl, my fifty-five year old mechanic with two gunshot wounds was kidding with Hector, the nineteen year-old who will be a father next month.  There were Maria and Paola, who had come into the class as strangers, but who are now best friends.  There was my student Emily who has scars on her arms she tries to keep covered, laughing as hard as she could, next to Erica, a very talented student who is headed to a university next year.  Across the table was Emmy who barely spoke this semester but who was now loudly directing the action of the game.

You know how a cat will linger in a puddle of sunlight, enjoying all the blessings of light and warmth, perhaps sensing that it all goes away too quickly? 

That's exactly what I did.

I just sat and watched my students and listened to them laugh and kid each other over the board and I was incredibly happy. It was a moment of sunlight and serenity in an otherwise dim and busy time.   I watched these students, all of whom have challenging and complex lives and schedules, enjoy themselves and share in this very simple time together.  

Their backpacks full of work awaited them on their desks.  Their complicated lives awaited them outside the classroom, but all that was suspended for this brief time.  They invited me into the action of the game.  I glanced over at the stack of papers I had to grade and I smiled, no longer worried about falling behind on grading.  I knew there would be time and space for me to grade later.  Now, I was determined to fully appreciate this small puddle of sunlight that we all shared for this limited time.

One game led to another and after about 40 minutes, we all reluctantly said goodbye. I sat there in my empty classroom, packing up my books and folders and despite the work I had ahead of me,  I realized how privileged I am to have the job I have.

My heart was full.  I stood in my empty classroom which still somehow held the echoes of all that laughter and whispered a prayer  I heard on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" years ago.  

"Thank you God for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough."  


Here's wishing you puddles of sunlight during this busy season.  




38 comments:

Mamma has spoken said...

Thanks for reminding me to take the time to enjoy those in your life. It is especially hard this time of year when there is so much to get done and the feeling that you can't get it all done won't leave me alone....

Madi and Mom said...

OH BB what a beautiful post and I love how you compared it to a cat enjoying a sunpuddle. We cat lovers know the joy on their faces as they lounge.
Hugs Madi the Diva cat and Mom

Tabor said...

APPLAUSE! And you have made me somewhat jealous.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You gave them a brief moment of joy where they could forget their troubles and simply enjoy a moment of life. Good for you!

Leah J. Utas said...

What a beautiful story, Betty. Go you!

Linda said...

God gifted you for teaching, BB. You make a difference in the lives of your students. And you write beautifully. Puddles of sunlight to you, too, my friend.

Leanne said...

Fantastic . . . Just fantastic . . . .

And the Garrison Keillor quote? I think I have a blank canvas that is calling out for it.

Oh, Betty . . . Your words always war, my heart. Thank you, my friend!

SueAnn Lommler said...

I will take those puddles of sunlight for sure. What a precious moment! Glad you enjoyed it!
Hugs
SueAnn

Retired English Teacher said...

Those moments truly are magical and memorable. This post confirmed that you are a teacher of life not just of students. They are lucky to have you. I miss the classroom.

Brian said...

Those are the best sunpuddles, they glow frim within!

Madi and Mom said...

Hi BB please check your email for info on card exchange and our address
Hugs Madi and Mom

Alison said...

Aw, geez, I was almost done reading this post and something must have landed in my eye...

(I bet those papers were easier to grade, with a lighter heart.)

Deanna said...

What a beautiful post. I set out our scrabble board on the coffee table a few weeks ago and we still haven't played a game. It's time to rectify that.

Brian Miller said...

what an awesome story....board games are a blast....we play as a family a couple times a week...and do game nights out as well....but i love too how you brought a little family to your students too...

one more week of school! woohoo!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - I've never heard of Blurt - but have now read the sales blurb .. and have an idea.

It sounds like you have one great rapport with your students - and made their day lots of fun, which they'll remember for a long long time ..

I must remember the Puddles of Sun ... that's a great turn of phrase ..

Lovely heartwarming post - cheers Hilary

Old Kitty said...

Awwww yay for teachers like you BB!!! Love the idea of Blurt!! LOL!! And love the kitty analogy - oh to be a cat!! Take care
x

Ms. A said...

You know, that may end up being one of the most important lessons you've taught them... to stop and enjoy the puddles of sunlight.

CS Severe said...

Thank you! That story brought so much light and warmth to my heart. I've been feeling down lately and trying to keep my chin up, but it can be hard. Your post helped tons. Board games, huh? I forgot how much fun they could be. :) Gives me ideas for the ESL classes I'll teach next term.

Susan Fields said...

That is a beautiful post - it gave me goosebumps! I'm going back to school in January. At the age of 44, I'll be taking prerequistites for nursing school at the community college. I loved especially reading about Hector - it's good to know there are some other older students around.

Ann said...

What a fantastic way to give your students a sun puddle. Thanks for reminding me to stop and enjoy them

The Green Streak said...

A few semesters ago, one of my former high school students showed up in my community college class. He told me: "I don't remember anything you taught me, but I remembered that I liked the class and I liked you." Well, I could tell he did remember some of the things I taught, but more important was how he felt about the class and his teacher. Your students are feeling the same way, Betty, and one of these days they'll remind you of that. I feel so privileged that this student returned to remind me of all that is important in education. You did, too.
Love and hugs

Gigi said...

Oh Betty, I hope my son has a teacher like you at his school. Those students are going to remember that 40 minutes for the rest of their lives.

CM said...

Oh my goodness, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I think it's awesome that you care so much about your students! There needs to be more teachers like you. I love how perceptive you are. You really are blessed and, I bet, a blessing to many of your students!

PS. I need to find "puddles of sunshine" more often myself!

Hilary said...

Through the years, I had to wonder why some of my sons' less than connected teachers chose their profession. Thankfully, there were only a few of those. Others were clearly born to teach. You, dear Betty, with all your puddles of sunlight, clearly belong with this group. Your students are blessed to have you. And I feel honoured to "know" you.

Lin said...

Nice, Betty. I love that story today. We all need to stop the crazy train sometimes, you know? I like that you led the revolt. :) I would join you....but I think you know that already.

Mellisa Rock said...

Thanks for this reminder. I am going to try to stop and recognize these moments throughout the day for what they are: Puddles of sunshine.

Daisy said...

What a lovely post, Betty. Very nice. We could all use a few more puddles of sunshine. Wishing you many of them too!

Noelle said...

I love you. I love what you write. Thank you for being you.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I have tears in my eyes! What a beautiful story. I'm glad you could take the time to watch and enjoy the bonding of your students thru playing board games. So nice!

we have family game night in our house. It's the one time during the week where we can shut everything else out and just BE with each other.

Lois Lentz said...

Such a comforting thing to read today. I have a few relatives in my family that are teachers also. I love hearing stories about how little things can make such a difference.

Jenny said...

Oh.

My.

This was beautiful.

I loved this puddle of sunlight.

And I'm glad I lingered here to bask in the fellowship and joy!

What a lovely post.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

How do you do it - perform magic with words and real-life situations? You inspire me.

xoRobyn

Catherine said...

I think those 'magic moments' are the best thing a person can hope for. Making a little bit of difference - for the good - in other people's life. I like this post - fantastic!
Wishing you a beautiful week dear girl.
xo Catherine

Unknown Mami said...

Sometimes life is just so darned beautiful.

Linda Wildenstein said...

Came over from Smitten Image. Congratulations on the P.O.T.W.
What a beautiful moment in time shared with us. I will now be looking for a puddle of sunshine with anticipation. You and your students are blessed. Oma Linda

Dianne said...

I love your analogy of the cat in the puddle of sunlight

I hope more students get to experience a teacher like you

brava on POTW

Shan said...

Love this. I hope you have found more puddles of sunlight over the holidays.

Baby Sister said...

I would play a board game with any of my English teachers any day. Well, except one. We didn't get along so well. But, I love this. Thanks for inspiring me to look for the puddles of sunlight in my life.