It seems cliché to describe the classroom as a microcosm of the world. Like it’s been done before and those words are nothing new. But as I stroll around this science lab, I see that it is truly as depicted. No matter how many hundreds of these rooms I enter, the same traditional stereotypes mostly live on, ceasing to challenge the evolving nature of time. Flickers of moderations on these conventions are here and there illuminated, briefly lit before a gentle smothering overcomes them.
Some things have, however, changed. Students seem not to be any more afraid of the front row as of the back. The confident ones even approach it as though a challenge and with the same manner as they address the authority figure in the room. They shy away from no verbal challenge and answer provocations candidly. The following is a little piece on a select few archetypes that are ever-present in the classroom, as I’ve observed.
She enters the classroom attempting to manage a semi-smooth walk that displays her sense of self, that doesn’t betray the burden of the luggage she carries. In the true sense of the word, she dumps her belongings on the table. She comes from wealth, so the treatment of her stuff shall not depict such consideration for material things, despite their value. She thinks she’s a cool girl, but little does she know that the world will chew her up and spit her back out, denying her the entitlement she such “deserves” under the pretense that knowledge is not power. She’s been raised in a family where somebody else had to grind away for the flow of money to remain unceasing, and the sense of “working hard” sits somewhere in the peripheral vision of her parents, with no legacy remaining for herself and her siblings. She opens her technology and begins a deliberate and crucial discussion about some teenage concern that could certainly not hold more importance than working on the Periodic Table. Inserting an earbud, she upends the fixed idea of a traditional classroom in one fell sweep. She converses with her company in a manner which portrays both her lack of interest and motivation for science, but conveys her fascination with having spelled her friends name incorrectly one time when she wrote it down. Her vanilla state of being perpetuates, and changes tempo only when she sucks another contender into her menial dialogue, her exasperation at the concept of sitting in a classroom looming over the middle part of her mouse brown hair.
There is another student based across from the last who seems to already understand that smart is cool. You might assume this girl will glide more fluidly into the outstretched and welcoming arms of the world; for her it will be a good place, though still she will apply herself as if it isn’t. She manages to conserve a balance which will pay dividends to her future; she converses with ease – both the boys and the girls she is surrounded by find her mellow and friendly. She remains “on-task” with her attention undivided…it’s purely The Science she is here for. She’s got straight teeth and blue eyes, and her self confidence allows for her to pull faces with no concern for her image. Other kids are attracted to her self possession but they do not yet know it; there’s just something that makes them want to be around her.
Behind and diagonally across from the real cool girl sits a student who won’t reach the peak of her poise until university or beyond. She overhears discussion on the Periodic Table and mumbles answers, the other kids not hearing her or choosing not to acknowledge her. Either way, she lacks the self-assuredness to give a correct response, or to challenge others that do not. She is swimming at the carnival today so did not have to come to class…she did, however, for The Science.
A step above the seriousness of our predetermined geeky girl is one for whom there is no other option outside of the labour of classwork. The repressing force of her parents edicts are like a perennial weight on her bony shoulders. Her concentration, her focus and attentiveness, though, go unobserved as she sits, neck beginning to ache from the sharp angle at which she holds her head. Her legs are crossed tightly, furtive glances at the ticking clock signifying her fathers insistence that she not waste a second. You’ll miss the scintillating dance in her almond eyes when she’s talking about Art, because of the tilt of her shiny black hair over a thick, tired textbook.
This piece of writing is not meant to be provocative. It’s not meant to get you, The Reader, thinking about the deeper, moral “meaning” behind the words. It might resonate with you if you are a teacher, and you “know” these students. You might be a teacher, and you’ve never met any such students. Maybe you are one of those students. Maybe you’ve been a combination of each of them. You might like the portrayals, or you might not. This is just a piece of descriptive writing that showcases my observations during one school lesson last week.
"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."