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edu180atl: betsy metcalf 10.18.11

As a student and I read aloud The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, we come across the word, “phantom.”  This junior boy starts humming under his breath the lyrics from Phantom of the Opera.  I pause a moment.  I hesitate to acknowledge what he is singing for fear of embarrassing him and potentially straining our relationship.  Instead, when I mention the musical, my student immediately lights up.

He recounts evenings at the Fox Theater with his grandmother and the shows he has seen, including his favorite, Phantom.  We share a moment comparing musicals, theater, what we like and what we don’t like.  These are important memories to him and I was allowed in to that part of his life, which before that quiet hum, I never knew.  In hearing the tune under his breath, I gained a clearer understanding of this young man, his childhood, and who he is.

Sometimes the things students say in a whisper, under their breath, or nonchalantly, can give us a better picture of who they are, what they’re dealing with that day, what is eating away at them, or simply a tune that reminds them of childhood.  As a tutor (no longer a teacher managing a classroom full of students) I relish the fact that I’m not plagued with a desk full of papers to grade and twenty students simultaneously demanding my attention. So I can listen to each individual and I want to embrace those moments started by a simple whisper.

A former history teacher, Betsy Metcalf works at Lovett School as a tutor, Assist. Director of Sustainability & JV Lacrosse coach. She also writes www.glutenfreedomatlanta.com

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sarah Neale Williams #

    This is a great entry! Although you are no longer a teacher, I think you have just made a point that many teachers (including myself) need to do a better job remembering. Yes, we have many demands, and no, we’re not private tutors, but we can still be more intentional in paying attention to these little moments that provide us more individual insight into a child’s life. It’s not easy to do it everyday with all the demands we face, but it can and should be a seed that is planted firmly in our mind because there is a lot to learn from these “whisper moments.”

    October 18, 2011
  2. So true (and I love catching the boys singing opera!).

    October 19, 2011
  3. Another possibility. He was dying to share that passion with someone all along. Who knows how many times he quietly hummed a beloved tune in the hope that someone would engage him in the subject. And then you did, and he was able to share his passion without feeling like he was bragging or giving an unprompted autobiography. I think that people, and kids in particular, throw out subtle clues (and not so subtle ones–think of the kid playing very specific air guitar gestures at the caf lunch table) that reveal what truly interests them.

    And perhaps, on that day, you were the one that talked to him with your eyes and ears wide open. Kudos on connecting, and thanks for your post.

    October 28, 2011

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