Nonfiction — “Teaching Tapas”

(One)

My classroom is a block like those you stack in first-grade. Desks stand like lines of British soldiers, and students shout and throw rulers and text each other in a war of attention. My desk is the general’s tent—to the side of the parade grounds and barracks, capable at a moment’s notice to survey the ranks (all I have to do is lift my eyes from my screen to review a regiment using phones to redo eyelashes).

From this distance, it’s difficult to tell if a student is passing notes digitally or using a calculator to complete physics problems. With a war weary sigh, sans mustache, cigar, and epaulets, I rise from my command to remind the infantry that the assignment is due in five minutes.

(Two)

Sometimes I’ll see a student staring out the window at the end of the hall. But what does she see out there that holds her attention? I know from experience there’s only a gray lot, cars, the track field, the tennis court—all yellow and hazy behind the dusty glass.

But I don’t think she’s looking at anything in particular.

Maybe it’s a mood she senses on the other side of the pane. Across the gold beer plains, coming from distant mountains.

A feeling she won’t find among white walls that slide into a maze of locked rooms and lockers. Halls guarded by ceiling cameras and attentive teachers.

Out there? Streets and side-streets. The brown roofs of suburbia. Highways weaving with the hills like little gray veins. And patches of trees binding shadow-flooded plains to the homes of coyotes.

Sometimes I know what she sees.