Back on my home turf—school—after four weeks away. Two goats have arrived to join the chickens and bunnies, Shakespeare rehearsals have started, new artwork lines the halls and the rooms are abuzz with the usual happy children. It’s home.
Jumped right into teaching as if it was the next day, some kids having noticed I was gone, some not. With colleague Sofia off in Hong Kong (the music department has been all over Asia these past few months!), I took some of her classes and got to work with the first graders. These the kids I taught last year as 5-year olds and decided to review five dances that I did with them back then. Lo and behold, not only did they remember them, but they performed them with great precision, flair and musicality. Kids who struggled with this activity last year now at a whole new level of mastery.
How did that happen? Some just developmental maturation. Some more experience doing similar things in their 1st grade music program. Some the consistency of our program to keep focused on essential skills and understandings. And then all of the above.
Time is a great teacher’s assistant, but alone is never enough. Intention and attention and perseverance in vision from teacher and execution in student are essential ingredients to improvement. We often worry too soon if a kid doesn’t understand or perform something correctly right away, but if we keep our eyes on the prize and understand the balance of repetition and variation and keep faith that the student will improve, lo and behold, it works!
As with learning a simple folk dance, so with developing a sense of caring and concern for social justice. I praised Antioch College for its work in this field and showed its impressive results and equally feel that The San Francisco School is likewise taking this seriously. I can’t help but feel that our maddeningly lack of mainstream progress in these matters come from schools that simply don’t address these vital issues and think that readin’, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic as isolated skills alone are enough. No way, not ever. It’s what you read and how you are led to think about it and how much you pay attention to it that makes the difference.
If I knew that every school, every church group, every media coverage was taking this seriously, I could patiently await the results. But I am impatient for this work to begin in earnest. Business as usual is not an acceptable choice.
There will be much more of this line of thought to come as I’m soon to leave on a four-day Social Justice Field Trip to Alabama with 32 8th graders. But meanwhile, hooray for the first graders dancing so well. That’s part of the deal too.