452. Daydreamers

I’m a daydreamer, and always have been. Sometimes, I pay attention better than other times, but there have always been times when I’ve drifted off into my own Walter Mitty world and missed important things that were said by people who weren’t in that world. For example, when I told my mother I had no homework, I usually meant it, whether I actually had homework or not. Maybe my unconscious mind had blocked out any memory of having been assigned some homework, but I didn’t know. Really. And when I got to school the next day, if there had been homework, I was sincerely surprised.
Some teachers held my attention more successfully than others. What they said was more of a factor than how they said it; a dramatic style may have gotten my attention at first, but if a lesson was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, I tuned out pretty quickly. And conversely, some teachers who spoke in relatively monotonous voices nevertheless said things that fascinated me.
I’ll take you on one of the many journeys my mind took while I was supposed to be paying attention. It’ll be a sort of guided tour, for those of you who have never daydreamed. Of course, each daydreamer follows a different route, and ends up in a different place, but what we have in common is that we don’t travel the route the teacher mapped out, and we don’t necessarily end up in the place the teacher had in mind.
As we start our journey, the teacher asks for attention. Like everyone else, I dutifully sit up, face the teacher, and wait, intending to receive whatever information the teacher passes. Then the teacher says, “One thing I really want you to understand and remember is…Wally, put that away.” And off I go.
Wally has been playing with a toy; the teacher is trying to get him to focus on the lesson. Her comment to Wally is not what she wants us to understand and remember. But I like playing with words (that’s not a new hobby I have). So I think about how I am going to understand and remember “Wally, put that away.” In my mind, I play around with a few mnemonic devices. And because I’m playing around like that, I end up having no idea what the teacher really hopes I’ll understand and remember.
If you’re a teacher, I hope you don’t have too many children who play the kind of game I sometimes played. I sometimes had that kind of child in my class, and though I sometimes enjoyed such a child, sometimes I didn’t. I learned to watch what I said – to be as precise as possible. Just in case there was my kind of daydreamer in my class.
Not everything every teacher says is fascinating. And luckily, not every child has to be fascinated in order to pay attention; some do it because they know paying attention often has its own rewards. But when there’s a child who is easily distracted, either by external events or by what goes on in the child’s mind, teachers often have some extra work to do.

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