The students will be sitting around talking, probably chatting, joking and checking their homework. I will be wearing my hair up in a twist and glasses.
After greeting the students I will write a sentence on the board and ask the class what they think it means. I know this to be the best way to start a lesson because I’ve seen it done by both Robin Williams in Dead Poets’ Society and Michelle Pheiffer in Dangerous Minds.
A student about my age (with whom I will later have a passionate but doomed love affair) will volunteer an original answer which will provoke discussion from the others. This students doesn’t have a name yet; I haven’t decided what country I’ll be working in. Neither is his appearance or ethnicity yet quite nailed down. All that is certain is that he will have a brooding expression and a look in his eyes which hints at stories untold. He will also be tall.
The students will listen to each other and to me intently. I will know they are listening because they will rest their chins on the backs of their hands and narrow their eyes in concentration. They will also understand. I will know that they understand because I will ask them, “Do you understand?” and they will answer, “Yes.”
After having their attention piqued by the sentence on the board (a masterstroke, I am not too humble to admit it), the students settle down to the main part of the lesson; doing exercises in their books. As they pore over the exercises, muttering to themselves, I will hear from time to time exclamations of comprehension, epiphanal sighs, the penny dropping. I will nod to myself in satisfaction as my plan comes together.
Once the exercises are complete and have all been thoroughly checked, I will be seized by a fit of whimsy and a yearning to break free from the constraints of traditional teaching. “Close the books!” I will cry. “We’re not using them anymore!”
The students will look around at each other, abashed. Has their teacher lost her mind? But they will go along with this unprecedented eccentricity nonetheless.
We will push the desks and chairs to the sides of the room and stand in a circle. I will start chanting the sentence on the board. Quietly at first, but getting louder and louder. With my encouragement, the class will join me. Louder and louder will grow the chant as their confidence grows. We will begin clapping and stamping. As the students chant, they will realise that this is the real learning. Not the exercises in the book, but this repetitive chant. It’s only in this moment that they finally grasp the significance of the important but as-yet-undecided point I’m teaching them. Giddy with this realisation, the chant will crescendo as the students clap the rhythms of their own native culture, whatever that is. As their rhythm brings a new cadence to the sentence we are chanting, I will gain a new realisation of the lesson myself, my understanding augmented by my experience of this rich alien culture. In fact, it will be I who will be learning from them (don’t get me fucking wrong here, it’s them who are learning from me – I just say I’m learning from them because I’m generous like that). We will dance together to the rhythm of language until a bell rings, breaking us from our reverie and signalling the end of the class.
After the lesson, the students will file out, still buzzing with excitement, chatting about the lesson and correcting each other’s English. As I breathe a sigh of relief at another day’s teaching successfully completed, one of the students will run back in and hug me. She won’t explain why but then it won’t be a moment which requires explanation. It will just happen.
After work I will touch up my make-up and head out to some indistinct balcony with soft lighting and moody music for a mocktail and an evening of scintillating conversation with my colleagues, a group of witty aesthetics who drink in moderation and don’t smoke.