Just one caring adult can change a child's life. That was the message sent to all teachers in my school from our principal yesterday. He asked us to watch a video from a former foster kid about how one person who cared about him had ensured his later success in life. Watch it, if you have time. It's inspiring. In sending us all this video to watch, our principal was reminding us of how important our jobs are.
My friends, this new job of mine, teaching music to very young school children, is probably the most important job I've ever had, and also the most challenging. One reason it's challenging is that some of the kids in every class have behavioral challenges. They haven't learned yet how to sit still and listen, or perhaps they are really not able to. So keeping a classroom in control is very hard. Very.
But what's the most challenging? The mental work and the spiritual work. The internal work that has to be done every day to remind myself that it's not about me. Training myself not to get angry or frustrated at the child who is not listening and who is disrupting the class, and to remember that this child is not intentionally trying to ruin my class, or my day. Remembering to respond to him or her in love, not anger. Sometimes it helps to speak sternly to a child, but my experience is that whenever the stern moves into angerland, someone ends up crying (not me) and only acting worse. Worse! My childhood memory is that a teacher would yell at the student, the student would clam up in fear, and the problem would be solved for that day, or that hour. But this is not what happens today. That was the past. Now, what I see is that when a teacher yells at a student, most of the time the student seems to only get more disruptive.
What I'm seeing is that the thing that seems to be most effective in the long term -- the thing that shocks a child into full engagement, at least SOME of them -- is a response from a loving place.
Do you know how hard it is to be loving when 19 kids are mostly singing along to "Simple Gifts," and 1 is doing cartwheels and making silly faces behind you, or crawling along the floor on the way to the conga drums, which he or she intends to bash as loud as possible? This is after you've already told him or her to sit down about 4,000 times.
Serenity now. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. (This is not working.) Om. Om. Om. (What time does this class end? Five more minutes... phew.) Om. Om. Om. Om.