Saturday, March 5, 2022


 I never have a moment’s regret about retiring from my school two years ago. My retirement mantra— “I like my boss and I like my schedule”— is holding up. 

At the same time, I was at the top of my game and having just subbed at a school and taught four 5th grade classes, I feel like I’m even one-notch higher, swishing Steph Curry 3-pointers one after another. 

What does that look like in a music class? For me, it means meeting 24 kids for an hour and feeling like you’re old friends, making music from the first second to the last with an uninterrupted, dynamic and engaging flow. Throwing them into the pool and finding out what depth they’re comfortable with, throwing out life vests as needed or retreating to the shallow end of the pool. Reading the crowd, adjusting the pace and the level of complexity, re-focusing some individual kids, checking in with them about their own self-evaluation, balancing imitation and creation. By the end of the second class, each of the two groups recited a challenging tongue-twister accompanied by complex body percussion both in unison and in canon, learned a Slovenian song and improvised dance to it individually and then choreographed a set dance in small groups. 

Most importantly, I can finally recognize the unfocused distraction mostly coming from restless boys for what it actually is— an energy that can be dispersed to create chaos, small or big, both in the class and in the brain and body of the kid or re-focused to both add to the community and organize the brain and body to express itself eloquently. Rather than get upset about it or shame them, I have a new sense of how to re-direct them publicly and talk to them privately. In just one example, a boy who was purposefully singing too loud and fussing with the kid next to him did a fabulous dance move to the song. I stopped the class for a moment, asked him to show the motion again, have everyone copy it and thank him for his great idea.

Unlike basketball, the elder music teacher need never retire, can keep improving in a thousand ways, infusing each activity with a deeper understanding of its purpose, how to engage the kids as a group and help each kid discover how music can integrate their impulsive energies and lead them to their own power of expression. 

Like basketball, not every shot goes in. Unlike basketball, when it does, the swish brings happiness to all. No opposing team that loses. We’re all in the game.

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