Melting 6th grade hearts
I’m not sure if the experience I had in my son’s sixth grade class on Friday would be typical in an American classroom, but I can safely say such a scene would not have taken place back when I was a sixth grader in Maine.
I was in the class instead of playing tennis on a balmy morning, because of an invitation Matan’s teacher sent to join a mid-morning lesson with the students. The subject was parents and children, and how both sides are now feeling the boundaries and habits that have been in place for 12 years beginning to stretch, fray and reshape themselves as puberty begins to rear its ugly head.
His class consists mostly of good students from decent families, pretty conventional without a lot of progressive thinking. Recess is dominated by soccer, and after hours taken up by computer games. Among the students are a couple of bright special needs pupils with social adaptability issues who have been mainstreamed into the class.
The lesson included breaking down into groups of three kids and three adults and reading classical Jewish texts about the subject of parents’ aspirations for their children not always jibing with what the child wants. This led into a lively discussion of the subject in which the teacher revealed what the pupils’ career hopes were, as written down in a previous lesson. There were plenty of hi-tech CEOs, doctors, models and actors as well as a lot of good-natured laughter and red faces among the kids.
When they got to Ran, one of the special needs students, the teacher said that nobody needed to guess what he was going to be. Evidently, he possessed a gifted voice and was enrolled in a music academy for opera singing for a number of years.
One of the kids yelled out, “Sing something for us” and it developed into a chant of “Ran, Ran Ran.”
A sweet looking blond-haired boy with delicate looks, Ran appeared painfully shy and tongue tied during the lesson, and had difficulty looking at people in the eye. However, when the teacher asked him if he’d like to sing, he shook his head yes, and stepped to the front of the class.
For the first time that hour, the room grew silent, as Ran began singing ac apella in the most angelic voice the traditional Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia.” Not a sound was made for three minutes and at least one pair of eyes had tears in them as he mesmerized the parents and kids alike. It was simply stunning.
At the conclusion, the classroom burst into applause and cheers and a smiling Ran sat down next to his beaming father.
On the way home, I asked Matan if the other kids, especially the macho soccer playing ones, made fun of Ran or picked on him. He said no, they were all thrilled at his talent and proud to be in class with him. I could say the same thing.