Most of the time when I find myself saying to my students, "Do you understand?" it means I feel certain they don't. They have a certain blank stare that sings: "Oh I'm far far off in another place, and the words you say bounce off my face". At times like these I feel that I'm making about as much sense as a scolding prairie dog preaching from his little hillock of earth.
But every now and then ...there's a different atmosphere in the room--wheels turning. As a teacher, I've come to appreciate that certain look in the eyes of students. It's invigorating to see an idea catching hold of a brain or sometimes a lot of brains at once and pulling them along. The students even look different at such times, for they sit quite still, paralyzed with the new knowledge. Suddenly, they are eager for silence, wanting the truth to sink into their brain and find other situations to affect. Then they start to wonder at the different light it brings to each of those. It's a great feeling when the bell rings on totally quiet moments such as these, and nobody moves.
I'm privileged to witness this often in high school students. But over Christmas, I watched it over and over as my five year old grandson played with a little microscope. He was mesmerized by all the new things he saw...and weren't you? Think about it--the first time you saw the ocean? the mountains? the Grand Canyon? a large cave with curtains of rock and stalactites hanging down? a bat's wing? We live in an amazingly intricate world and there is such wonder to quieten us in awe. So, here the little fellow sits, huddled on the floor with his microscope quietly marveling, as the twenty-two other people in the room talk boisterously, play loud games and lively ones, snack on too much sugary stuff, and catch up on a year's worth of each other's lives.