Those title virtues might well be the most important qualities for a teacher to cultivate. There is a child at my school who is a bit of a compulsive side-talker. (I’m sure there’s a syndrome with a name for this—like Turrets without the swear words). I especially noticed this in the five years of elementary Singing Time, when it was a rare moment indeed when he was actually with the group singing a song.
Now he’s about to graduate 8thgrade. I’ve had a good year with him, but the side-talking often persisted. I remember one class when I was talking and he was and I said in a lighthearted tone, “There’s two of us talking right now and only one should be. Who?” One minute later, he was talking again. “Didn’t we just have this conversation? Come on, step up to the protocol here!” Still lighthearted. Guess what happened 30 seconds later? Still, in an affectionate and lighthearted but clear way, I called the student’s name and said, “Will you just SHUT UP!!!” Well, that got everyone’s attention and in this twisted litigious culture, the kids picked up on it and apparently someone reported it and a higher-up reprimanded me with no interest in the context or the tone. Well, that’s another blog post entry in itself.
But back to my 8thgrader. I never lost faith in this student as a valuable human being and though my patience was often mightily tried, it paid off in the end. For in the last project about a jazz musician, he wrote a wonderful essay about Frank Sinatra, someone who (apparently) he loves to listen to. It was quite late and I was wondering if he would leave school with this work incomplete, so not only was I happy he did it, but I genuinely enjoyed his paper. And so I wrote to him:
You did it! Not only completed the assignment, but I really loved what you wrote, showing your understanding of the complexity of human beings, their failings and their triumphs. And at the end of the day, for artists, it's their artistic accomplishment that lasts and gives people hope, comfort and beauty. And you're right about that voice. It was a gift from the gods and he not only accepted it and used it, but worked hard to use it as expressively as he could and worked hard to get it to the public—1400 recordings! That's extraordinary!
Good work and whatever field you end up in, I hope you'll carry Frank's inspiration to work hard, persevere and bring beauty to the world. (And yes, you can skip the womanizer part!)
Finally, whoever would have thought that that young boy who so often wasn't singing in Singing Time would pick a singer as his inspiration! :-)
Wishing you all the best in the future that awaits you,
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