Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lovely. LOVELY. LOVELY! LOVELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just as the first meeting of one of my creative writing classes was breaking up today, one of my male students approached me. He clutched a notebook in his hands.

"Uhm, hey," he said.

"Hi," I said.

"You like the word lovely," he said.

I examined him. He was skinny in strange places. He looked like a bird. He looked like he was about to peck my eyes out. "It's a nice word," I said.

"You said it a lot today," he said.

It was true. I had. I really, really, really like the word lovely, and sometimes--especially on first days--you just get into this zone and words sit in your teacher voice and get real comfortable in there, and they hang around and show off a little more than they normally would. In addition to lovely, I also used the word scoot and peek more than I wanted to. I think it has something to do with not using Teacher Voice for four months, and during the first week back Teacher Voice gets coupled with the part of my brain that is completely pleased to have eighteen people who are forced to sit in a room and listen to what I have to say about things. This is intoxicating after having four months of silence where I taught nothing and no one, unless you count The Lady-Killer and how to use the Downey ball.

So I nodded at the kid. "Yes," I said. "I love that word."

"Well, I hate it," he said.

I stared at him. "All right."

"I mean, I really hate it. Every time you said it I flinched."

I looked around. I wanted to see if anyone else was listening to this. I wanted to make desperate help me! eyes at someone I trusted. I tried to will one of my students from last semester, who had made the decision to go another round with me, to turn and look at me and give me a look like, "Oh sister, that one is completely bat-shit crazy. I'm so sorry."

But no one would turn around.

"That's pretty rough," I told him.

Then he turned his notebook toward me. He jabbed at it with his too-skinny finger.

The words at the top of the page said TIMES SAID LOVELY. Beneath it, there were three little ticks of the pen.

"Oh," I said.

"I'm going to keep track of this," he said. He was very serious. He nodded. "I'm going to keep track ALL SEMESTER LONG. And then I'm going to tell you how many times you said LOVELY."

Oh, I wished someone was listening! I wanted one of my former students to follow me back to my office and giggle in the corner with me. Maybe what I was really wishing for was Christine, who, last year, always followed me back to my office, and spent the next two hours giggling in the corner with me.

But no one was listening, and Christine was all moved on and preparing to go off to her fancy $40,000 a year college, so I had to go it alone. So I tried to squelch the laugh I felt brimming at the back of my throat. I made my face very serious.

"Well," I said, "I guess I'm going to have mind my Ps and Qs with you then."

And then he nodded and disappeared out the door and into the hallway, where he was swept away by a tide of students who were rushing for the door, ready to escape the semester that was less than forty-eight hours old.

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