This little guy showed up this week crowing in our pear tree. The only thing that makes him bigger than our pigeons is the tail. His smallness is accentuated by a high pitch cry more pubescent sounding than our full-bodied roosters. He's the perfect snack for the migrating hawks and hungry foxes. We call him Rocky. He's got a lot of fight in him for a bantam. He needs it. He came alone.
Due to his size and newness, we needed to separate Rocky from our other poultry. They would harm him before getting to know his great personality. I could hear Rocky crying, calling out early before the sun until late evening as the sun left. He felt alone and scared. Rocky was quarantined for his own good, but the effects of isolation are evident.
Yesterday marked our fourth week of teaching virtually. Our classroom is defined by the black parameters of my laptop screen. Normal habits of greeting each student as they enter become estranged. Connections are unstable, videos are turned off, students sit in the silence hiding from the teacher and each other. To date the material covered is about 40% a regular semester and my effectiveness feels to be about 60%. My gauge for the former is derived from years of delivery; the later comes from my heart. How can my voice alone carry everything I need these students to hear?
Each school day I feel like a human sponge. I can feel the anxiety, confusion, disappointment, and frustration from the other side of the screen. My students are hurting, alone in their isolation.
We started to work with poetry and looking closely at student chosen quotes from their novels. Taking the power of a word into account, we began to see ourselves in the character's struggle. The repetition of "dominated by fear, the fear of failure" cried out when placed side by side with another random quote about the character. That fear beget more fear resulting in a family who lived in perpetual fear. As the words opened, silence came. Not an absent silence. This quiet spoke of connection. I knew they were with me. I knew they had heard.
When we focused our attention on the characteristics of the individual words, we could begin to hear a message that included us. We could connect to another's struggles and know we are not alone. I went from speaking into the void, to feeling united with those I couldn't see.
From early morning until I finish my day, I am surrounded by voices. Some are crying out in frustration, some share words of encouragement. From social media to the occasional friend I meet, we all just want to be heard.
There's power in a well placed word. Precision and focus provide strength of thought. If I try to listen more to the character of who is speaking, who is crying to be heard by considering their chosen words, then maybe I'll be able to hear what they are trying to say and I'll find an unexpected point of view.
"so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Is 55:11 (NIV)