I am very proud of both the staff and students of the Kalamazoo Kids in Tune. This last week we pulled off an ambitious orchestra concert program including Mahler 1, Dvorak New World Symphony, and the ever classic Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It marks the finish line of a very busy school year.
Teaching is paradoxical. On the one hand, as the teacher, your purpose is to guide students in their own learning process. And while you may think that you are the one charting the course and steering the ship, it is in fact the student who makes the journey. The teacher really doesn’t teach. It is the student who does the learning. Yet at the same time, as a teacher, you are a student also. Instructors have told me how much you can learn from teaching. If you have done it, and you understand it, then you can figure out how to pass this experience and knowledge to another. Teaching is in and of itself a form of learning. After a full year of teaching both university students at WMU and elementary students Woods Lake Elementary, I would like to share some of my reflections on what has transpired.
1. Everyone just wants to be heard.
Oprah Winfrey, in her last episode of her show, said that she "talked to nearly 30,000 people on [the] show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common -- they all wanted validation. ... They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?” This proves true for all people, both children and adults. Whether their statement or expression is positive or negative, constructive or destructive, it is the song of the human soul. In a sense, the expression is valid because it is an expression.
2. Don’t be reactionary.
That being said, expressions may be valid but they are not always appropriate. Prof. Uchimura has this theory of “reactionary personalities”. We have reactionary tendencies, after all, we want our voice to be heard and we have selfish (though not necessarily bad) motivations. However, in situations of confrontation or times when we are not getting our way, we can all act quite badly. There is very little difference between the student that throws a temper tantrum and the adult who tries to drink their woes away. Really? Is that what you’re going to do every time life throws you a curveball? Buck up Chuck, life’s tough so you better be too. Our initial reactions in a situation may be true but that doesn’t make them right. The foundation of civility is being able to filter and compartmentalize effectively. Rarely does it “feel good” but generally it is the right path to take.
3. How does that make you feel?
In the soulful words of Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Dedicated individuals in education know this to be true. What really matters is the personal connections you make with students. And when it comes to life at large, doesn’t this rule also hold steadfast?