One of the things I do moderately well as an ESL teacher is monitor. While the students are talking in groups, or pairs, I can usually pick out their errors over the din of the crowd. It could be grammar or pronunciation. I can also hear when they are talking about something completely unrelated to the task I set for them. It’s hard to believe, but sometimes these students are unable to stay on task. They get distracted or sidetracked. Like I said, hard to believe.
Today, while monitoring, I stumbled across Today’s Perfect Moment. Maybe it stumbled across me. Either way, it was perfect.
I was turned away from the student when she said “It smells like summer.”
There were no grammar problems with what she said, but it struck as both odd and oddly beautiful nonetheless. Spring has only just begun and it definitely didn’t smell like summer to me. Also, my classroom doesn’t have any windows, so I was perplexed as to where this smell of summer was coming from. However, the sentence was uttered with such complete conviction that I had to smile.
Think about Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. It was smell that triggered that long diversion that became a novel. Smell is such a powerful idea that as I imagine song lyrics in my head, I can bring up the smells. She smells like rain. Smells like Teen Spirit.
I turned around to try and figure out what my student was waxing lyrical about and I caught her smelling her own hands. I did my best to raise a questioning eyebrow. Fortunately they have been trained to respond to my facial expressions, and clearly she understood me.
“It’s my hand sanitizer,” she said.
I continued to look puzzled.
She picked up the small bottle on the desk in front of her and raised it to the air. “Do you want to smell it?” she asked.
Who wouldn’t want to smell summer? Who wouldn’t want a preview of the season that will soon (eventually) be upon us. Who wouldn’t want to experience the depth and breadth of an entire season in an inhale.
Sadly, all I smelled was grapefruit.