Although I’ve been teaching for nearly seventeen years (with a few breaks), until recently, I believed that I had identified many of the best methods of engaging students. Thanks to a request from a fifth grader, I increased my strategies, with happy results.
An important consideration is that I was in music class. The music teacher is out on leave and I assumed the responsibility for her classes. In each one, I invited students to participate in an impromptu talent show.
What an amazing display of talent! At least half of each class wanted to perform for his or her classmates. While a few displayed some stage fright and reticence, most had the presence and initiative to get up and dance, sing, cheerlead and do gymnastics.
But it wasn’t always the chatty, gregarious kids who did the performing. One young man who was a special needs student bravely stood up and demonstrated the sword maneuvers of which he was most proud. Another timid young student sang a fight song in a tiny, barely audible voice. Happily, the entire class stopped talking and listened attentively to her, offering sincere applause when she finished.
Some of us clearly have the need to display our talents and proficiencies. But to say that this is the sole motivation is only half truth. There is a powerful amount of adrenalin made available, whether you are a solo, group or ensemble.
And there is one more component, that of self-satisfaction. I tell students daily that everyone is good at something, inside the classroom or outside of it. One young man made the effort to confide in me that he was an artist, not a musician. He went on to say that his energies would best be directed elsewhere and I assured him that it was a great decision. To liberate the pride available through singing or anything else is to teach confidence, accomplishment and excellence.
Two days of my work are never the same. One day it’s curriculum, one chore after another. The next, I am watching little people stretching their artistic legs and identifying their places within the creativity community. Shalom.