I woke up this morning feeling like Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
My feet hadn’t suddenly welded together to create a tail. I couldn’t breathe and live under the sea. And unfortunately, I didn’t have a posse of animals following me around, breaking into song and dance at any moment.
No. Instead, I woke up without a voice. Which is something else I can add to that list of firsts. Even in all my years playing sports, I have never completely lost my voice. It was an odd feeling – to try to speak, to know that I’m doing everything I should to be able to speak, and to hear only scratchy, non-decipherable sounds emerge from my mouth.
Being new to the whole trying-to-speak-and-failing phenomenon, I figured I could still somehow teach. I could whisper to one student and her “translate” to the rest of the class. It would work. Right?
Well, between that great idea and the fact that I had absolutely nothing planned for a sub, I got ready for a normal day and drove off into the dark morning sky to school.
Oh, the looks on their faces when I tried to talk this morning! One boy shot me the most confused look when I said something in a particularly hoarse voice. I think he thought I had traded my voice with a man.
Well, I only wound up teaching for about an hour and a half until I got sent home to rest. A teacher who can’t talk can’t really teach. Silly Jamie, trix are for kids.
But in that hour and a half, I witnessed some moments that reminded me why I do what I do, even though it’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
My student that I’ve had the most trouble with – constantly talking, talking back, not focusing, falling asleep, attitude – I made my translator. I whispered my instructions to her and she relayed them to the class. She showed such poise and self-confidence while talking to the rest of the class, and incredible care and concern for me during the morning.
Another one of my students raised his hand while the class was working independently on math. He had it raised (and was still working!) for a good three or four minutes before I was able to get to him. I asked him what was up, expecting a question. Instead he looked at me and said with some emphasis, “Ms. Shea, you’re showing perseverance right now!”
Another girl passed this to me as I walked by her.
Is it incredibly frustrating to not be able to speak? Absolutely. (On an unrelated note, because I’ve had to be silent all day, I’ve realized exactly how much I talk to myself when I’m alone. It’s a bit scary.)
But at the same time, it’s been a tough couple of days in the classroom. Seeing the concern and compassion of my students this morning, their understanding of the situation and their self-control, reminded me that although I don’t have it all figured out, and some days are bigger struggles than others, there is a reason why I keep trying. Why I think about something to improve every single day. Why I don’t give up. Why I can’t give up.
The 23 kids in room 119 are some of the best kids in the school. They deserve my best. And I want to give it to them.
So tonight, I’m drinking hot tea by the gallon and crossing my fingers that tomorrow morning, that flighty voice decides to return. It’s time to get back to business.