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There was a few minutes of free time at the end of one day. Two out of four student groups had given presentations. Not presentations by regular standard, for this crew…star performances. Magnificent deliveries of spoken words, rehearsed and organized. The most hot-water students, names almost permanent on a blue sheet of paper for athletic ineligibility, stepped forward during Questions & Answers, teaching their classmates about the book they read. Confidence. Beauty.

In these post-performance precious minutes before the bell, students congregated in empty spaces, filling the atmosphere with words they use too frequently, relaxed from their pressure-cooked performances, creating friction unnecessarily between their bodies.

I started to clap my hands from behind my desk, slowly at first. Then louder, more emphatically. They heard me and clapped. Twenty students, clapping with eyebrows raised, heads shifting in surprise like swivels on their skinny necks. No idea why they had started to clap. I heard a few exclamations, questions at the nature of our celebration, but the clapping didn’t cease. I said nothing, just raised my applause above my head and sped up. They clapped along, faster still. By no prompting, they started to woot and cheer. Just general ah-ha’s and woo-hoo’s. Not for any one person, just for the clapping itself.

Soon, laughter at the spectacle, and the speed of it’s escalation brought tears to my eyes. Floods of them. I had to stand up and make amiable acquaintance with the tissue box near the sink. When I quit, they quit, clap by clap.

The groupthink concept overtook them. The aura of peer pressure swept them into action without reason or sense, without command or repercussion. They all just clapped and clapped, cheered and rejoiced for nothing, for no one–because a spontaneous clap grew from the somewhere.  An anonymous leader emerged from the bowels of the classroom and they followed, carried it on, curiously, but without needing a reason, any instruction.

I loved the momentary rush it gave us all in the minutes before the bell. Their questions, their surprise, amazement at the superfluousity of the experiment. They loved that I was as purposeless as they were.  This was before they knew that I am really a lot like them.  Most of them still don’t realize.   

All the laughing, the clapping, the wooting together.  Immature and unreasonable. Adults and children.  And children who think themselves adults.   One unified spontaneous classroom noise.  Beautiful.