So Johnny, Why Don’t You Sing for Us?
The bell rang: Johnny dragged his feet across the floor through the classroom door, dropped his backpack next to a seat in the back corner, and stared at an empty gray desk and then out the window. No doubt, the next hour would seem like a day. And Johnny is not alone.
Education has become dead to many. Especially in the “left behind” group, students read but fail to see words come alive. They write as if they were blind. They recite poetry but cannot see the imagery because, for a while now, their minds have been kept in a damp, dark cell. They are forced to squeeze words into five-chunk paragraphs, and one sentence out of line is crossed off with a blood-colored pen. No one has ever told Johnny about his freedom to explore words: up-and-down, inside-and-out. No one has let him in on a secret of education. No one has ever whispered into his ears that to become a student of literature, he has to dance like no one’s watching, to sing at the top of his lungs, and once in a while, to relish food to his heart’s content. He has to look at the world in between his legs, to see a twinkle in the eyes of a homeless child. In the moment of silence, he has to listen to the wind blowing, the birds chirping, and his heart beating. Through pain and suffering, he has to reach out and touch others who are also crying. He has to practice closing his eyes and smell the flowers, and feel the pedals, and touch the dirt, and listen to the leaves kissing the ground. For once in his life, when it rains, he has to open wide his mouth and let the raindrops trickle down his throat to refresh his soul. Johnny should pretend to be someone, not out of shame for who he is, but out of the curiosity and the desire to walk around in someone else’s shoes. Had anyone told him these secrets, he would not walk into class, but waltz, march, skip, and even sprint. Maybe his heart, mind, and soul would start to dance across a white page. He sees, therefore, he writes. He feels and shares his feelings with the world.
It is my mission as a teacher to lead students like Johnny out of the prison of the mind to swim in the ocean, to run in the forest, and to breathe clean, fresh air. It is my goal to show him ways to unlock the secrets of texts and to unveil its power. I see myself as an artist, and my students’ minds as an object of my art. While not every work of art will be a masterpiece, each one is still a work of art. I have come to find joy in discovering talents in others, and it is my dream to see my students succeed further in life. My heart beams with joy when seeing Johnny—after much sweat and tears—smiles and says, “Miss C, I got it!” Then he shouts across the room to his buddy, “ List'n dog, she says I write well...ya know dat!” Things like that money can’t buy, although it can certainly help.