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HERE COMES THE SUN
May 3, 2007
 
Surely, the clock on the wall in Anna's classroom was slow -- it said that it was only ten o'clock. Already the students had written in their journals, discussed the weather and the day of the week, month and the year and had a social studies lesson on the products sold in the markets of Tel Aviv, which include hummus, pita bread, pants, oranges, tomatoes and olive oil. Already most of the students had shared at least once in the discussion, and most of them had forgotten to raise their hands at least seven times. It is easy for them to forget to do this. LLP! the teachers call, over and over.

What's LLP? I whispered to Anna as she passed.

Listening Learning Position, she said. Feet on the floor and hands in your lap. Some of us have a hard time keeping control of our bodies. This was manifestly true; one boy kept sitting backwards in his chair, another had threaded his skinny body through the hole in the back of his, still another kept flinging himself across the table.

Some of them are eager to share in class. Some are eager to share but then forget what they were going to say when called upon. A couple of the children find it very difficult to share, hard to arrange their words so they come out right, hard to understand why they need to speak at all. One little boy kept putting his head down on the table, hiding from the stress of his obligation. Not being sure what they are supposed to do makes them frustrated and anxious, and the teachers quietly remind them, again, what it is and why it is.

People speak quietly here, another custom that bears frequent repeating. You don't interrupt. You don't shout. You don't get in another person's space, but if someone gets in your space, you don't hit or push him away. These things are hard to remember. You can use words, Anna told a boy who wanted his seatmate to leave him alone and had raised his fist to make his point. You can say, please don't get so close to me.

During the Tel Aviv market lesson, one little boy tripped over a chair and fell, letting out a series of screams that would wake the dead. Like a flash, Anna scooped him up and helped him out of the room, murmuring soothingly to him as they go. This enabled Daphne to continue the lesson and the other students to remain calm. Unexpected things are worrisome to most of them. When they finished sharing, noting which items for sale in Tel Aviv are also available in the markets of Italy, New York, Uganda and Mexico, they passed out paper and crayons and drew things that you can buy at the one in Tel Aviv.

We went upstairs to the Meeting House for chorus. The spring concert will be onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, an impressive venue for this group. The lower school will sing "Here Comes the Sun," and has been working on it for many weeks. Eyes on me, said the music teacher, again and again; it is hard for most of the students to remember where to keep their eyes. Their attempt to rise to their feet together at her and signal was not like a well-oiled machine -- it was more random, like popcorn. But they knew all the words, and singing seemed to hold them together in a way most things do not.

Sitting and listening in the soothing simplicity of the old Meeting House, I realized that I was exhausted, and all I had done was watch. All teaching is hard work, and all teachers must be alert. But not all students present the minute-to-minute level of challenge that these students cannot help but bring. Not all students know so much about frustration at so young an age, baffled by things that do not baffle other people, unable to do things other children can do, unable to explain themselves to the world or to grasp many of the world's explanations. Already, all of them know more than some adults ever learn about the profound sorrow of failure.

But failure can be an artificial word. It is not used here. The bitter taste of it is almost gone. Everyone still has things to work on -- Tomorrow, you'll share twice in social studies and twice in science, Anna told a little boy who finds it very hard to speak in class -- but nobody is summed up solely in terms of his or her weaknesses. This is a place in which tomorrow is always another day, and even today still has some more chances left in it.


Here Comes the Sun
---words and music by George Harrison
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right.

Little darling, it's been a long, cold lonely winter.
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here.
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right.

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces.
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here.
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sum, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting,
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been clear.
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right.
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The wonderful school I visited is the Mary McDowell Center for Learning, a Quaker school for children with learning disabilities in downtown Brooklyn. http://www.marymcdowell.org/

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Today at noon! The Geranium Journey continues at noon, to beautiful St. John's Cold Spring Harbor, an easy train ride from Manhattan's Penn Station. Barbara Crafton will read her contribution to the newly-released Heaven, a collection of essays by a number of religious writers -- the first-ever public reading of this essay. Bring a bag lunch. For directions, call 516-692-6368 or visit http://www.stjohnschurchcsh.org/html/map/map.php.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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