I got sick one week before my Asian trip and was worried about that. Still taught at school everyday, just kept soldiering on with occasional stops for a short pity party. By the time I left, I was mostly at the end of it.
Each day in Tokyo, felt a little better and almost myself again when suddenly on the plane ride to Singapore, had a relapse. I taught yesterday as if underwater, drinking tea every five seconds while teaching high school kids and leading a singing time spreading the Gospel of Jazz for 280 2nd and 3rd graders! It was great! Sort of. Some of the 2nd graders came up afterwards and asked, “Are you on TV?” So they liked it, but I felt, health-wise, that I was still thrashing in turbulent waters trying to keep my head above water. And then a rough night back at the hotel. When I’m sick, the whole world feels sick and isn’t that the way it just is?
Woke up hoping to feel miraculously cured, but no parting of the Red Sea for me. Just a little bit better. And a full day ahead. So jumped in with a spirited 5th grade Peter Piper and then in came another 300 or so 4th and 5th graders sitting on the floor. I’m used to a 100 kids, but 300? That’s A LOT of kids!—and the ones in the back feeling so far away. My attention-getting and attention-keeping skills were being called forth big time—while sick.
So I started with—of course— a story, about my friend Bruce Crookston who did poorly in school, but could remember the words to every song on the radio. His mother used to lament that if school taught everything with a song, he’d be a Phi Beta Kappa! And then told the kids that’s exactly what we’re about to do. Learn some important things that school would like them to know—Language Arts things like pronouns, opposites, rhymes, homophones, vocabulary, narrative, Math things like cumulative properties, patterns, numeric relationships, History things like how technology impacts culture, worker’s rights, secret protest, Geography things like categories of belonging, countries, hemispheres and so on and so on. Had a song or two for each study, hastily scribbled on paper riding over in the taxi and an hour after starting the singing, only got to the first seven.
I reviewed what the kids had learned, but also made sure to point out that there was a lot more secret learning going on. Experiencing the pleasure of joining one’s small voice to the large voice of community, connecting with classmates, connecting with people across borders and from other times, feeling some moments of great power when we all ended together and great beauty when the parts joined together harmoniously. Oh, and also having a great deal of fun! As seems to happen more and more often, kids dismissed lingered to thank me or tell me a little story or chat a bit or just prolong the sense that something magic had happened in the course of an ordinary school day.
Not bad for being sick! Now heal thyself, o Physician!