What’s the best part about taking a vacation from teaching? The answer is coming back to the classroom. Philosophizing and reflecting about the process of teaching is similar to looking at a piece of cheesecake rather than eating it.

Directing a classroom is a process unlike any other. You learn immediately that each child has his or her own personality, quirks, issues and needs. The best comparison I can muster is that of conducting an orchestra.

All of the musicians in the orchestra know how to read music and to play their instruments. But don’t ask the cellist to play the trombone. And don’t expect the bassoonist to jump into the percussion section. While there are occasions where musicians are proficient at multiple instruments, usually they specialize in one.

And so it goes in the classroom. Student John is good at math and leading others to recess. But you can’t ask him to write an essay and deliver it to the class without considerable struggle on John’s part. Student Mary is very intelligent but as moody as she is smart. She is likely to put all day if you don’t pay sufficient attention to her hair or clothes.

The challenge is that John and Mary don’t tell you what instruments they play or what their quirks are. They can’t express that their father likes the older sister better. And it’s only after time elapses and trust is established do you find out that John is slightly hard of hearing and Mary is afraid of everything.

In both contexts, it’s all about practice, practice and more practice. Just as perfecting a complex symphony or aria, leading this team of miniature musicians requires a thorough understanding of the subject matter.

The problem is the lack of sheet music in the classroom metaphor. Or in this case, a substantial amount of patience will help with listening skills and reading small cues. Ultimately, directing and teaching require passion for the process. Once you acquire an understanding of the ensemble, the nuances and the desired finished product, memorable harmony is inevitable. Shalom.

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