Tuesday, July 21, 2009

don't wipe that smile off your face

Following is a transcription, more or less, of a conversation that I just had 20 minutes ago during my 4th period class with Mauricio. We had just finished chapter 3 of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and we sat down to play a quick hand of Scrabble Slam:

Me: Want to listen to Pandora while we play? We can put on that Michael Jackson station you made.

Mauricio: Yeah, that's cool. That music's ill.

Me: You know it! (sings in a mock-MJ falsetto) "You got to leave that 9 to 5 up on the shelf, and just enjoy yourself..."

Mauricio: (looks at me, smiling, shaking his head) Can I ask you a question?

Me: Shoot. But pick a word first, then deal.

Mauricio: Are you ever, like, not happy?

Me: (giving him quizzical look) Well, sure...why?

Mauricio: Because, you're like, always happy. You're always in a good mood.

Me: Well, you see me when I'm at work. You see me here. And I'm really happy here. I really enjoy working with you guys, teaching reading.

Mauricio: (keeps dealing cards) Yeah. I was talkin with Duggan (another student of mine) and we was sayin' how, like, there's something wrong with you. 'Cause you, like, are always happy.

Me: (chuckling) Oh yeah?

Mauricio: Yeah, Duggan goes, "I beat her at Scrabble Slam, and she goes 'Oh well, guess I'll have to do 9 pushups!' That's wack, yo!" (laughs)

Me: So? He beat me, and I throw in that little rule, which I only make myself adhere to. (laughing) Is that bad?

Mauricio: (laughing) No, I guess not. We're just...not used to someone like that.

Me: Not used to being around someone who's happy?

Mauricio: Yeah.

Me: I see. Well, I could change that. But I really don't feel like it. Besides, I have someone's butt to kick at Scrabble Slam. Let's go. Play.

It doesn't bother me that they think I'm unusual for being happy all the time. I don't wear a maniacal grin on my face 24/7. I have my ups and downs like everyone does. But it is an absolute truth that I adore the work I do and the population I work with. How did I get so lucky to reach this professional nirvana?

What does bother me is that there aren't more happy people in the fabric of my students' lives, both in the clink and on the out. People who smile and look them in the eye upon seeing them, people who ask them how their day is going, people who care enough to listen to their good and bad and in between. The realization of this bums me out. But I save these thoughts for moments outside of instructional time. Class time is sacred, and the attention I give my students is best delivered undivided.

5th period starts in 11 minutes. Gotta go.

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