Sunday, December 10, 2017


Faith is the instructor. We need no other. 
 – Mary Oliver from her poem Spring

The Interns in our program have just finished their teaching. So satisfying to see their work and their progress. All without exception had better second classes than first ones, which shows they were paying attention. And our efforts to put language to the details that worked well and those that worked less well, to shine the light on the stumbling places on the path, to diagnose the little symptoms that the children announced in the way they responded—well, it worked! I used to think that the Orff way of having the teachers being trained as if they were the children in the class, to experience the pleasures or frustrations first-hand, was enough to help them understand how to better organize and teach their own classes.

Not so. Without the language, without making conscious the unconscious experiences, most teachers will revert to their old ways and not even notice why they’re not working. And the language also is not enough. You have to get out on the field and be heartily tackled by the children, drop the ball, get your passes intercepted, before the new ways of effective teaching start to take root. There is no better path than failure after failure for the alert teacher.

And then there’s Mary Oliver’s advice above. At the beginning and end of the day, it is faith that sees us through and teaches us everything we know. And what is faith? A belief that doesn’t insist on scientific proof and then begins a lifetime of proving it. A firm conviction that something is right even if others don’t share it. An intuition that this makes sense and is worthy of being the North Star of each and every decision you make.

But generic Faith is too abstract. What kind of faith guides the music teacher? Take your pick—or consider them all.

• Faith in the musicality of each and every child. An unshakeable confidence that every child is musical and your job—and theirs—is to discover precisely how they are musical.

• Faith in music itself as a faculty necessary to complete a human being. Faith in its power as a language, as a poem, as a meditation, as a connector of fellow humans, as a spokesperson for emotion, as the awakener of feeling, as a singer of beauty, as a comforter of sorrow, as a coordinator of fingers and lips and tongue and hips, as the key to unlock all the doors in the House of Soul.

• Faith in the humanitarian promise of each and every child. Getting close to the root of the child fresh from Creation before the dull, deadening, murderous techniques of brainwashing set to work, before their radiant 360 degree personality gets sliced down by the adults threatened by its brilliance, before the surgeon’s knife of religion, of society, of psychology’s fantasy of normal starts to cut away the exuberance, wonder and curiosity, before politics kills the kindness and business steals the imagination and substitutes it with goods.

• Faith in your own power to effect change, to make each class memorable for children, to learn to love them and celebrate them and praise them and bless them. That’s what will see you through all the hard days.

• All of the above.

Faith is the instructor. We need no other.

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