Monday, July 19, 2021

By the Way

Have I mentioned that I love to teach? Any age, any time, any subject. It’s not exactly like the craving I had for basketball in 8th grade, feeling my fingers itch to bounce the ball and shoot the basket and feeling restless until I did. (I used to shovel the snow off the court in the inter just to satisfy that obsession!) If I go through a long period without teaching, I’m fine doing other things. But when I return to it, it’s always a homecoming.


And so off I went this morning with yet another 5-day/ 15 hour Zoom class on the theme of my last book “Teach Like It’s Music.” Most people are so Zoomed out and can’t believe that I would want to do it and that anyone would want to sign up (19 have). But once engaged, I come to life in my whole self, share the things I considered valuable in almost a half-century of working on it, feeling the palpable pleasure of sharing ideas and material and the enthusiastic response from the folks in the little squares, with smiles, gestures, comments and questions. And soon, in just one week—oh, joy of all joys—I get to do this live!

In today’s class as in all my classes, I did have a clear plan, a marked trail that I laid out and intended to walk with the folks, but there are parts of yourself that you will never change and for me, it’s my fascination with all the side trails, all the beckoning off-trail wildflowers that beg to be admired and occasionally picked. Because of my lifetime of reading and writing and thinking about diverse fields, all it takes is a tiny impulse and off I go talking about the myelination of the synapses in the brain or the modern culture’s hyper-pace of change like a song that changes keys, rhythms and styles every few bars and never allows you to sink into one sustained feeling or how the Orff teacher’s “How else can I do this?” mantra is also good advice for Congress. I fervently believe that the marked trail is a worthy one and it feels good to be led from point to point in a straightforward way, but truth be told, the most interesting part of any class, whether it be with adults or children, often are the side excursions. My most common little phrase that I insert when I teach is “by the way,” which turns out to be the perfect expression of what’s off to the side that I think is important to note. Either that’s true or it’s my way of spinning my serious learning disability into something positive. 

I'm sure it's a little of both. Don't want to pave the road and put up "keep off the grass" signs, but also recognize that one good point artfully developed that resists the side trips, be in a musical thought, a philosophical thought, an image or a story plot,  has a power worth pursuing. Wish me luck!



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