Over the last few months, the following two quotes have remained at the front and center of my thinking:
“to be alive is to be appropriately tensioned and … to be tensionless, like a limp violin string, is to be dead (Ted Aoki)
In order to make beautiful music, instruments must be properly tuned. Too tight and strings will snap. Too loose and the music will be bland. The same is true for teaching. There are countless scenarios where there needs to be a fine balance for students to thrive. For example, students need structure in their homes and classrooms. Structure builds safety and helps children know what is expected of them. However, if there is too much structure, children will suffer. They need room to breathe and opportunities to make their own decisions. This leads to the second quote:
" ... like ill-taught piano students: we play our songs, but we never really hear them because our main concern is not to make music but to avoid some flub that will get us in trouble." (Robert Capon)
It is my hope that children will feel safe and comfortable in their classrooms. I hope that children have adults who they can trust and speak to when they are sad or upset about a situation. It is my hope that I will not be like the strict and up-tight piano teacher. Yes, my students might be able to do all of their math facts. Yes, the artwork might look neat and tidy. Yes, they might become stiff and obedient when I walk into the room, however, where is the life in that? How can we call that living?
My hope is to see children make a symphony with the life they have been given. I realize that they can’t do this alone. They need a village of loving individuals who can love and support them wherever they go. It is my hope that I will become more like the supportive music teacher who has found a balance to teaching music. Not too strict, yet not too lackadaisical either. Teaching this way is hard. It is messy. You can’t predict how things will turn out and I think that’s okay.
My ideal picture of a student in school deeply connects to a child playing the piano at a music concert. I imagine her walking up to the wooden stool with a smile on her face. Her mom and dad are watching in the audience and the child gives a quick wave to them before sitting down. She takes a deep breath and begins to play the song. The notes blend together in a way that deeply moves the audience. As the child plays, she moves her body back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. There is freedom in her soul. There is joy! There is peace and not a worry in the world about making a mistake. If a wrong note is played, it’s no problem; she will continue to play her song. And because she is not worried about playing the song perfectly, she is able to make rich, beautiful music!