I knew it had to come sometime. That little tickle in the throat announcing, “You’re going down, buddy.” I ran to the Wellness pills (echanecea with golden seal) with vague hopes to head it off at the pass, but it slipped past those guards at the gate and next morning literally had me by the throat. From there, it’s water, water, tea, tea, try to rest, feel sorry for myself, more water— you know the drill. After a dubious day yesterday and a morning of teaching, I sat in the school library with two classes left to teach feeling it creep over the body and sure that it would lay me flat by 3 o’clock carpool.
But what do you know? A class with 4th graders pushing my comfort zone with movement at the center and five Interns watching was not as debilitating as I imagined it might be. There was a moment when I needed to trot out my little pep talk about the purpose of music class— to feel better at the end of class than we did at the beginning. And for that to happen, we had to learn and practice two lifelong skills:
Blend In. Stand Out.
I walked out on the limb and asked the kids, “Did you ever have the feeling singing in a group that you disappeared into the sound, couldn’t distinguish your voice from the others and became a small part of something larger? Or the same feeling playing drums or xylophones, your part dancing in the swirl of sound and it feels like you’re playing the whole thing? Or a moment dancing when you’re lost in the swirl of motion?” And then right to the edge of the limb, “Did anybody ever experience that?” And lo and behold, many hands went up. And I believed them. 4th graders can be deep.
Then I talked about the standing out moments, when you got to sing or dance or play a solo or contribute an idea made audible and visible by the whole group. A good music class was a mixture of standing out and blending in. The good feeling that you’re an invisible part of something grand and glorious and the equally good feeling that for a few moments, you get to shape the world in the way only you know how and discover that the world likes it.
So the secret is to know when’s the time to blend in and when’s the time to stand out. The little lecture was prompted by one student who literally was in the middle of the circle as we danced and didn’t seem to notice that it was time to join the crowd. So now I had a context to talk to him with no shame attached. And he did better.
My next 4th grade class began with a couple of kids not wholly attending my scintillating beginning words— and so I trotted out the speech again. The result for both groups were some exquisite improvised dances with a few goosebump moments.
When it was over, I realized that indeed I felt better than when I walked in. In fact, was almost ready to proclaim myself wholly cured after a mere one and half days. Rode my bike home feeling just about full strength with the sense of those pesky germs receding. Home now and yes, a few are lingering— don’t want to get too self-confident. But it just may be that the power of 4th graders opening themselves to aesthetic creation is greater than a mere annoying virus. Let us hope!