The whirring of a fan on high. The buzzing of an army of thirsty mosquitoes. The scraping of chairs against tile. The hum of fluorescent light bulbs. The shuffling of sketch pads against conjoined tables. All these sounds are relatively standard in my classroom. But wait, to complete this audio visual I should add a few more things. The beat of Mauritius’s hottest tracks playing on portable speakers. The shouting in Creole of children trying to communicate across the table. The cries of indignation when a student laughs at another’s artwork. The slide of a ruler from one student to another. The dull thumps of an eraser making its way across the room. The tinkle of a pencil following the eraser in pursuit. The splash of water, perhaps on the table, maybe on paper, maybe on another student. These are some of the loudest sounds in my day when I take a second in my classroom to try and take it all in.
On the days when the noise of class can be a bit much I like to try and drown out my thoughts in loud music that I blast through my headphones once I get home. However, sometimes rather than calm my racing mind it builds on the existing sounds. So the other day, rather than continue to use a method that was counterproductive, I decided to try something new. After dinner, I grabbed a towel, went upstairs, and lied down on the roof, staring at the stars.
The rustle of palm fronds in the slight breeze. The chirp of crickets. The occasional bark of a dog. The purr of a car cruising home on the highway. Relative silence.
After looking up at the stars and what I’m pretty sure was Mars, I discovered a tranquility that I had lost for a little while. As I actually took the time to reflect on my day and on my time at the center I realized that there were some crucial sounds that had been lost in the noise.
The voices of some of my students asking to take art supplies home so they could continue to do their work. The laughing of the students who come to class early to witness silly pre-class antics. The questions, “Is this okay?” or “does this look good?” as the students show me the hard work that they have been putting forth. The scratch of brushes on paper after an art demo has been given and the students try their hands at a new activity.
Sometimes it’s quite easy to get swept up in the noise, to be overwhelmed by sound. But there are other senses that I have to remember to use when I’m running the risk of drowning in the day to day noise. It would be nice to understand what the students are saying when they speak in Creole to one another and I bet it would be nice for them if I could communicate with them in a language in which they feel comfortable. However, there are other means of communication. When I’m explaining an art concept and I make eye contact with the students and I see that they are paying attention to the lesson. When I take my laps around the room and I see students blending colors in their palettes and sketching out their ideas before they take their brush to the paper. When I see the students who stay after class to make sure everything gets cleaned up and that Lauren and myself have a ride home. It seems like I have been doing a lot of seeing but I have realized that until now I had not really opened my eyes.
As we are approaching the finish line I need to remember to open my ears to the sounds that can get easily lost in the noise. I need to remember to open my eyes to the sights that can be easily overlooked. I need to remember that it’s the little things that matter and it’s not always about the loudest sound.