Thursday, September 10, 2015

If 8th Graders Ruled the World


When people read that title, I wonder if “Lord of the Flies” comes to mind. But in the extraordinary world I’m privileged to teach in, I have a quite different vision.
With the Orff National Conference in San Diego this year, my colleagues and I decided we should take a group of kids down to perform. We have done so five other times when the Conference has been close and once taken a group to Salzburg. In the past, we asked for interested Middle Schoolers willing to commit the time and energy and generally gotten a manageable number of 10 to 17 kids. This time was got 45! Out of 90. That in itself is notable. 45 kids confident and enthusiastic and committed enough to the power of music that they’re willing to put in the time outside of school and put themselves in front of an audience of 1000 plus music teachers from across the nation. Yeah!
But equally impressive are the applications we received from the students about why they wanted to go and why we should accept them. Lovely to read their testimonies about what music means to them and what they have to offer. Just one example here,  answering the question about what it means to represent the school:
I think students should represent the San Francisco School by being responsible, enthusiastic, supportive, unique, and kind. It is important to respect yourself and others' beliefs and uniqueness. I will support others in whatever they do, and be enthusiastic in every endeavor I undertake. Ambassadors of SFS should have overall good intentions and an equal mindset towards others.
If only our Presidential candidates were as mature and thoughtful! Listen to these values.
Responsible:  Not only being accountable for one’s actions and fulfilling one’s obligation to serve the work and the people affected by the work, but also “ The ability to respond.” It’s a big part of our music program, training kids to listen and respond in a way that increases the power and beauty of the music.
Enthusiastic: The Greek etymology is “being filled with the energy of a god, inspired, possessed, as from certain types of music.” Thus, a great musical quality, the hope to feel the deep Spirit of the music and the excitement of learning in general.
Supportive: So much of our sad culture, in and out of school, is pitting people against each other, the whole “winners/losers” mentality. In music, each part is a necessary part of the whole edifice and each is needed to support the building of sound. And so we hold it together by holding together. We are all necessary to each other and we better start living that truth sooner than later.
Unique: I love this! “Blend in, stand out” is my hope for my students, the first leaning toward the supportive, community aspect of good living and good music-making. Check your self-enclosed self at the door and feel the majesty of melting into something greater than yourself—the joined voices in the choir, the dancing feet in unison, the thunderous groove of the drums. Feel the pleasure of being nobody in particular.
And… you are someone extraordinary, in fact, literally one-of-a-kind in body, brain and heart, a miracle that has never been before and will never be again. So offer your uniqueness, your unique point of view, your unique way of understanding and expressing the world. Own it, cultivate it, share it so the world will be refreshed. Stand out!
Kind: “My religion is kindness” says the Dalai Lama and this student gets it. Who would expect an 8th grader to include “kindness” in a list? But she did and others as well, helping myself and our fellow teachers feel that our efforts to structure our classes with kindness in mind has paid off. The culture of bullies that is epidemic in schools comes from adults who let it pass. Kindness, like everything of value, requires effort, practice, intention, reflection and at the end of the day, is perhaps the most important thing we can teach—and model— to kids.
And then this lovely young woman ties it all together by affirming again that her uniqueness exists within the circle of community side-by-side with other unique beings worthy of respect and celebration. Presidential candidates, especially those proposing we build walls rather than invite fellow beings to the tables, those playing on division and hatred and them/us and fear of the other, take note.

You are being trumped by an 8th grader.

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