I like to start each new school year with a game. It’s called “Yes” and it involves students standing in a circle, asking for permission to move across the circle and take someone’s place. It’s a cycle of saying “yes” and my hope is that the idea of assent carries over to discussion. As the players improve at the game, I up the intensity. I have students toss a heavy, imaginary bowling ball across the circle. They practice saying yes by catching the imaginary bowling ball in a way that suggests that they’ve “yessed” its imaginary weight. Then we blow a feather across the circle while the bowling ball is circulating, and finally I pull a “lizard” from my pocket and send it scampering to a classmate.
Yesterday I tasked my Creative Writing students with the a little snooping. Purposeful snooping, of course. Peer into lives and find the story hiding.
Sometimes I use their in class writing time as a time to just sit and process how my activities are going that day. I “circulate,” a fancy teaching term for making sure everyone is on task, but if I’m honest, sometimes it’s more of a perambulation than a circulation. My brain coasts a little. I’ve realized I need these brain breaks during the school year; my days are so jam-packed lately that I crave the autopilot a little more than I’m proud of.
A few days ago, we were out to dinner with some friends, and the conversation turned to the topic of New York. A year ago, almost precisely, this conversation would have been a frank declaration about my love affair with the city. A year in, I still love the city, but the conversation has changed.
“Have you ever noticed that New York is not a convenient place to live, but—like—New Yorkers take some kind of pride in that? Like the struggle’s part of it,” our friend said.