Monday, November 28, 2022

Doug vs. Dogs

Today was yet another reminder of a powerful personal truth— I have to keep teaching kids. For my sake as much as theirs. Having just spent a day at a school in Toronto with 4th-6thgraders, I had only one complaint— each hour long class was too short!!


As I do, I feel like I’m best friends with each of the 22 kids within the first two minutes and it gets better from there. They like my jokes and stories, I like theirs. I love their expressive movement and speech and they eventually love that I give them permission to move and speak as themselves. 100% kids through and through. While this kid/adult leads them step by step one millimeter closer to the adults I hope they become— competent, hard-working, intellectually sound, caring while never abandoning their vibrant kid energy. When they thanked me at the end of class, it was not from adult-mandated etiquette. It was a sincere expression of gratitude that I gave them an opportunity to show themselves, to grow themselves, to have an hour of sheer musical pleasure amidst all the other demands of the day. 


Outside the school was a sign that read “ALL OF YOU ARE AMAZING!” And while I appreciate that this is a step up from the old school “All of you are horrible!” I would wish that schools organize themselves around the kinds of activities that ask kids to prove it. Yes, all are worthy of unconditional love just for their very existence, but not necessarily worthy of unending praise without having to do anything to earn it. I’m not talking about big-time prize-winning accomplishments, just a steady stream of small but significant moments— one person’s exuberant energy playing the Cookie Jar, another’s startling composition when finding her “secret song,” another’s expressive movement singing “Soup, Soup,” and yet another’s swingin’ xylophone jazz solo on Blues Legacy. Chance after chance to let their little light shine and when each of the 22 rise to the challenge, the light shines bright indeed. 


After the last class, all headed to an assembly to witness the accomplishments of two robot dogs. I’m sure they found them amazing and intriguing, but I wonder if they appreciated them more that the class we had together, if they would go home and tell their parents about the dogs, but not Doug. Or vice-versa. Or both. Who knows?


You can guess what I’m going to say. Yes, those robot dogs represent a long chain of fervent brain power to create a machine of this level of intelligence that is indeed impressive. Good for them. But are we going to continue to place our hope for the “good life” on machines, give over our personal power to the extensions of our inner power, feel amazed by a robot dog but inattentive to the field daisy? Just asking.


Meanwhile, ain’t no robot dog or machine can give the kids what I can and certainly none that can give me what the kids do. On to tomorrow’s class.

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