Thursday, September 19, 2013

Permission to Remember

In addition to training teachers when I travel, I sometimes go into their classrooms and work with their kids. I recently received this affirmation from a teacher whose kids I taught:

“I can't express how deeply the experience of you teaching in my classroom has affected my own teaching, and freed me to express and use my musical persona as a potent teaching force. Thematic, improvised warmups have so opened up my teaching practice, and the clarity and focus in your teaching have helped me streamline and toss out much of the bullshit in mine. Thanks for that!”

Talking with the Interns at my school the other day, I outlined the thinking behind the way I plan, structure and teach classes. Easy for me to do in a workshop and appear as a flawless teacher, but these Interns had observed three weeks of classes and could clearly see where my theory and practice merged and where they departed. As I talked about how good an idea it is to end class with a closing circle, asking the kids, “What did we do? How did we do it? How did it feel for you? What might we do next?” I followed with, “Of course, you hardly ever see me do this!” My excuse is that I want to play music up to the last minute, but while talking with them, I vowed that I would start to do it more. And then told them, “So you see, 95% of what I say in a workshop or a book or an article is simply a reminder to myself. And to all of us. Most of us know what good teaching feels like, but we simply constantly forget and need reminders. Just like most of us know what good eating or exercising or loving or living feels like, but we’re put together in such a way that we frequently forget and perpetually need reminders.”

The man who wrote to me clearly already knew how to use his “musical persona as a potent teaching force,” but just needed a reminder. And also permission. I wrote back:

“More and more, I see my role as giving reminders to others (and myself) as to what we've always known and permission to go there (something the universities often discourage). Thanks for sharing the above and congrats on your bravery and determination to re-adjust your teaching to fit yourself better!”

What have we forgotten today? Who has given us permission to remember it? Can we be so brave and bold as to give ourselves permission when no one else will?

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