Monday, December 21, 2020

Simple Truths

Janus, the God that looks back and forward at the same time, is soon to re-make his annual appearance. Today, on the Winter Solstice, the accent is looking back. Tomorrow, the return of the light suggests a peek forward.


Perhaps this is what inspired me to open a folder of old and unfinished articles in search of a particular something I know I once wrote. And the ever-surprising-but-shouldn’t-be revelation— I’ve written a lot! Never at a loss for words and never running out of things to talk about. And sometimes getting it right. 


I never did find what I hope to, but came across an introduction to a book I’ve yet to write and may never or just may make my New Year project. The original title was Simple Truths: A Handbook for Music Teachers and Musicians. Some of it definitely made its way into my last Teach Like It’s Music book, but still it might be worth putting in this different format and context. Here’s an introduction I wrote and I kind of like it. Music teachers and musicians out there, any encouragement to put this on my To-Do list?


I imagine all teachers have a drawer filled with cards from kids that proclaim: “You are the best teacher ever!!” We keep them to remind us to persevere, to affirm that we made the right choice in our career, to help us remember that we actually have done something worthwhile with our lives. We don’t stop to think that maybe the child has given the same card to every teacher she has had or that maybe she liked us because we let her stay in one day from recess when it was hot outside and we offered to share our chocolate bar. But ours is not to question why. It is enough that she wrote it. 


This book is my hope to help you fill your drawer with such cards. Nothing I say here can easily make you a kinder teacher, a more humorous one, a more fun one with a more scintillating personality that your students will adore. But the part of teaching that is changeable, the details that make your lessons more effective, more fluid, more child-friendly and yes, a bit more fun and scintillating, is something within everyone’s reach. 

Part of it is as concrete as following a recipe in a cookbook, part as practical and scientific as pushing this button and getting that result, part as systematic and formulaic as Step 1 leading logically to Step 2 until Voila!, a finished musical work at Step 7 that makes the children happy and the parents pleased at the concert.


But far more important are the ideas behind the practice. One idea rightly understood will give birth to effective practices that make sense because the teacher’s vision is intact. When things don’t work as well as imagined, the teacher can adjust accordingly because the understanding is clear. Those merely following steps will be lost. Vision leads the dance, each step of the way.


What are the understandings that will feed your vision and fill your drawer with praise from students of all ages, the questions that never can be wholly answered that will guide you to being the best teacher you can be? What is a good first question to get things moving?


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