Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Small Things with Great Love


“Not all of us can do great things. But we all can do small things with great love.”
-       Mother Theresa

It happened. I had one edgy class with my beloved 8th graders. The first all year. It wasn’t terrible, but I found myself getting annoyed with little side talk, low energy and affect, lack of enthusiasm for the music and practicing it— all this, of course, one week before the Spring concert. For the first time, I felt a them/me divide, me the mildly scolding teacher and them the resistant, recalcitrant students. What was going on?

1)   These things happen. Biorhythms, moon cycles, group chemistry and dynamics. Affects all of us. And oh yeah, they’re adolescents.

2)   8th grade senior slump.

3)   I didn’t have a great night’s sleep the night before, was puzzled about how to proceed with the piece and was feeling the inevitable tension of upcoming performance, my work and reputation resting on the shoulders of teenagers on a stage.

About 1 and 2, nothing can be done. As I always counsel the teachers I train, imagine everything that has gone wrong is your fault, even when it’s not. You’re the variable in the equation that can change and effect change. And so I did my homework with that particular piece, came into the next class with a good night’s sleep and enthusiasm for my plan and the casual, relaxed relationship we’ve had all year revived. And naturally, it worked great! One tiny teacher-scoldy reminder to one kid and the rest was the usual, “Come on, let’s play some great music! Stop. That didn’t work, let’s do it again. Yeah! You got it!”

With the negative charge gone from the room, the slight pressure of the upcoming concert eased (but present in tightening up rehearsal in a good way), me genuinely happy to be with them and make music, things flowed well and we achieved a great deal. I had found my way back to doing these small things with great love— love for the music, love for the kids, love for teaching, love for the opportunity to be together in love.

Friends, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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