Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reality and Actuality

South Side Chicago - May 2016 - C. Mirus
It was a cool fall day in my classroom on third floor. We have clear windows that look out over our school’s courtyard, and the view includes a pleasant landscape of the south side. The window was cracked, which allowed for a monotonous drone of traffic and pedestrian chatter. We were working independently. Students were typing, writing, reading, otherwise in a stupor with the Wednesday workload.

It was pleasing. We were safe and comfortable. We knew what we had to do and what we were expected to do. I love that about the classroom. There is a procedure and expectation for both student and teacher alike. Sometimes, it can run on autopilot. This was one of the moments. I was working with a small group on a chapter of a book we were reading. I had asked a question, and they were off to look for evidence before answering. It was a moment of quiet, again. I was in the middle of one of the most dangerous areas in the country, and at that moment I didn’t worry about a thing.

Then, reality made me feel actuality. During 3rd period on that Wednesday there was a gun shot. Through the sliver of a crack I had opened the window it leaked through. I knew it wasn’t immediately close, perhaps 2 or more blocks away. The proximity was enough to be startled, but not enough to be scared. I saw some student’s heads perk up. I saw some not move an inch. The range of experience. I made eye contact with a group across the room. I said something about a car backfiring, or maybe a fender bender in front of the newly minted Dunkin Doughnuts one block away.

I lied. They knew I lied, but drank the lie anyways. They laughed about someone’s crappy car losing a bumper. Someone pretended to be driving and then bumped in the back. One boy fell off his chair, yelling “I have no insurance!” They made a few more jokes, and I let them have the last 10 minutes to joke and talk. I needed them to have that time. Not because what we were reading was less important, but because their childhood was important.

I let the world into my classroom one sliver of a window break, and they handled it better than I could.