Sunday, March 10, 2019

Thermonuclear Re-Energization

“ The sun contains a massive number of hydrogen atoms. Typically, a neutral hydrogen atom contains a positively charged proton and a negatively charged electron that orbits it. When this atom meets one of its fellow hydrogen atoms, their respective outer electrons magnetically repel each other like bodyguards. This prevents any of the protons from meeting each other. But the sun’s core is so hot and so pressurized that atoms whiz around with so much kinetic energy that they overcome the force binding them together and electrons separate from their protons. This means the protons, usually stuck inside the hydrogen atom’s nucleus, can actually touch, and they join together in a process called thermonuclear fusion.

Just like inside a nuclear reactor, atoms inside the sun’s core slam into each other every second. Most often, four hydrogen protons fuse together to create one helium atom. Along the way, a tiny bit of the mass in those four miniscule protons is “lost;” but since the universe conserves matter, it can’t just disappear. Rather, that mass gets converted into a dramatic amount of energy…”

From Popular ScienceWebsite in answer  to the question: “Why doesn’t the sun burn itself out?”

A music teacher asked for help on Facebook around the issue of “teacher burn-out.” Out came the stories of all the teachers who had faced the same dilemma and some of their successes in overcoming it. Here was mine: 

“There are so many reasons for burn-out. Exterior ones like a school that's not supportive and demands too many unnecessary hoops to jump through, colleagues you don't enjoy, unworkable demanding schedule. All of those can be "fixed" by identifying the source and taking the necessary action—new school, advocating for better schedule, etc. 

But then there are the interior ones—the honeymoon is over,  or never happened, or you’re teaching the wrong age, or you’re tired of your way of teaching, or you finally have to admit you were meant for a different vocation. Harder to "fix." 

In reality, it is probably a combination of many of the above and more that weren’t mentioned. But the one you have the most control over is the way you’re actually teaching. If you meet kids where they are, organize your classes around the way kids actually are, how each age tends to think and how they learn best and what they tend to care about, you have a good chance of giving them exactly what they need. 

And then they in turn will give you exactly what you need—the feedback of their excitement, energy, enthusiasm, all of which helps you feel that you’re on the right track and you should keep doing down that path. If you’re teaching well, they’ll also discover that extraordinary musicality and when you make music together—at any age—the music itself will come back to you and give you yet more energy. Like the sun, the protons of your passion and energy and enthusiasm and musicality touch the protons of the children and there is an explosive release of energy that comes back to you both. 

In my case, I work very, very hard to prepare the classes for a fairly demanding schedule—6 to 8 classes a day over an 11-year range (3-year-olds to 8thgrade). Being 67-years-old and having done this for 44 years at the same school, I should be feeling tired. But I’m not! Whether it’s 3-year-olds skipping back to their place and arriving at their spot exactly on the last note of the cadence, 4thgraders playing a complex and exuberant clapping play or 8thgraders knocking out killer blues solos, the music constantly refreshes and energizes me. As does the kids' happiness in making it, their quirky comments, astute insights, impressive support of each other and playful spirit whether they’re 3 or 13. These are kids low on the end of polite “I'll listen quietly and do whatever you say" skills, but high on the end of “Yeehaw!!” It takes a lot of energy to corral and focus their energy, but when it works, it comes back multiplied. In short, energy begets energy, the protons keep slamming into each other and producing renewable vigor and vitality. 

So take a look at what you can do to infuse your classes with child-like play, lightness, humor and joy and see if you feel the diminishing flame of your passion spark back to life. Good luck!”

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