My first Tuesday class is a bit of a farce. One of the drawbacks to working the classes the way my employer does is that kids get slotted into classes by what time is convenient, not by ability level. This means that Tuesday 3:30 (for now, anyhow) is two boisterous five-year-olds and a studious eleven-year-old.

The five-year-olds come directly from school. They have been good and quiet all day. And they haven’t had any time to let off steam before being asked to sit in my class for an hour. In addition, they are both vocal children. J was talking to me nonstop in Korean before she even knew any English. S is a giggler and a drummer.

The eleven-year-old, C, also comes directly from school, but has better control over himself. Mature for his age, he asks probing questions and is a naturally critical thinker. He deserves my answers, time and quiet in which to do his work.

I try to give those things to him. I try to answer his questions with the detail and description he craves. But I’m doing it between the other two reading aloud, or reminders for them to pipe down, which are largely futile, since what they need is a run around the block and a snack, not more silence and still.

Around thirty minutes into class, either I heave a big, unconscious sigh, and C gets the giggles, breaking out of his long-suffering shell, or he sighs and I can’t help but laugh. The younger ones giggle as well, and we have a little minute wherein we all laugh together. Then we can manage the end of the class.

I have tried to push the moment sooner, for more productive time, but it can’t be done. It needs to be the right moment. It needs to have C and me exasperated and the little ones having had enough loud time to go back to concentrating. There’s no way to fake it.

“I’m glad you’re here,” I said to C today. “I wish I could give you more quiet time.”

He shrugged. “I’m okay.”

He can handle it.

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