At the beginning of the week, my dad had already been in the hospital for several days, but when my mom was also rushed there unconscious—and after she was stable though still unconscious—I felt like I was this dual person at school. Part of me was spewing concepts and examples and asking questions, while some other part imagined I.V. drips and labored breathing and all the rest. Standing in front of class was the last place I wanted to be. But during the latter part of the week, when I knew I couldn’t do much at the hospital but wait, I went to work and found myself immersed entirely in my questions and students’ answers, as if nothing else mattered but the moment, which is a common phenomenon for teachers or any type of performer, but I was peculiarly and intensely aware, which is ironic, I think, and contradictory. Survival mode. Defenses up. In the moment yet not. I don’t think I’ve ever welcomed a Friday more.
What did we do all week? We started a unit on intelligence. Had many discussions on their definitions of intelligence. Gave them a difficult and phony intelligence test to make them feel uncomfortable for a few minutes. Shared a quote from the Chicago Tribune from a music producer who quoted Leonard Bernstein: “The recipe for doing something great is a plan and not enough time.” (Apologies to the producer, whose name escapes me. I think I got the quote right.)
On Friday, many students were decked out in orange tee shirts to celebrate the life of a student who died recently from complications of cystic fibrosis. The shirts were a small part of a plan to raise money to fight that horrible disease. Our student council joined forces with the student council of a sister school in town, big rivals usually, and great things happened. All of this was quite touching and inspiring and life-affirming. A lesson on the dearness of life. Lessons all around us this week.