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Play is so important. This is beautiful!
Whenever I’m emailing another staff member about a student fro whom I can’t spell their name, I always pull up their email address up on the “CC space and then delete it after I’ve gotten the spelling down.
(Yes, I realise this is stupidity at its finest…!)
This backfired spectacularly today when I was emailing on behalf of a New-As-Of-Term-3-Sir-Year-10, and pressed enter on a message raving about his attitude to learning, aural skills, and determination to succeed to another staff member.
This student cannot read printed music. Yet he can play by ear like a boss. He’s intelligent, imaginative, streetwise, and centred. He cracks me up with his sassy humour. I cannot wait to see who he’ll grow into for the remainder of Year 10, let alone Year 12!
But it was a rough start to the term coming into a class of ridiculously talented Year 10 Music kiddies. You know how you get waves of talent? We’re riding the crest this year with this amazing vintage.
He hit reply on my accidental “CC” and wrote:
Dear Ms Kwok,
I have to admit that I was pretty freaked out starting this term at Pulteney, and finding myself in a class of freakishly talented people. It was overwhelming. But in 3 weeks, you have made me feel connected and included through your teaching and finding ways to acknowledge my skills within the class. Case in point? This email, which I suspect you didn’t mean for me to see. But I’m glad I did. It’s all these little things that you + the class are trying to do for me without me knowing which make me feel valued and good about being here.
Thanks for finding a spot for me, while trying not to make it obvious. That somehow makes it even better, and I appreciate it even more.
Cheers and see you next lesson!
Sir Year 10.
I am trying something new.
In addition to waking up at 5:00am each day as a way of giving myself time to nurture myself physically, creatively, and emotionally, I am setting myself a creative challenge:
I have to create SOMETHING every single week.
I am a full-time secondary school music teacher, so this is an audacious ask. But more and more I am drawn to the truth that creativity is so essential to my wellbeing that I need to explore the constructs of it in more detail.
Composing and writing for me are double-edged saws. I love to express myself and get to the heart of what I am trying to say, yet I struggle and circle endlessly in a painful creative agony getting started when I try to be creative during the term.
I know exactly what it is; it’s the fact that my “creative craft” during the week is teaching; this is where I am being my most imaginative, where I am have the playful and creative conversations, and where I am problem-solving like a MF. All my energies are poured into the classroom.
But I am giving outwards, this is not a creativity that necessary nurtures me fully.
I’ve also discovered that when I am confronted with a choral commission, or a creative piece of work, or even just knowing myself during the term, I am like a stoppered bottle. I feel as if I have to scrape the layer off the outside of myself to find the good stuff, or even just stuff!, and then I wander around with handfuls of words like a sleep-walker trying to figure out what I am trying to say.
I am beginning to see that to care for myself as a creative being, I need to be creative on a weekly and daily basis. Not just for others, but for myself.
So here’s the challenge:
In taking the creative reins I am reaching for a bigger point of healing; while I consider myself playful, imaginative and courageous in the realm of creativity, I haven’t practised the scope of my language, and the repertoire of sounds and words I can use to express myself.
And secondly, I wonder if I have ever written solely for myself. It’s a stark realisation, and one that I am heading straight into with a sense of wild freedom and adventure!
These are the spirits we are working with in classrooms. Let us take care of these ones and live like this ourselves!
Increasingly, I am realising that it’s the tiny little moments of work which add up to create a whole in anything, and it definitely applies to creative projects.
I used to block out large gaps of time to be creative. And I’d love this time and be productive; I’d play with ideas without pressure, I would get down snippets of melodies, and freely write and edit lyrics, I would improve my piano technique and find new sounds.
But lately, I have found a new magic, ease and productivity in the tiny, incremental steps. Each day, I have been waking up at 5:00am and writing. And from the writing has come a new playfulness and clarity. Having uninterrupted time to myself energises me, and allows me to articulate my ideas, in words and verbally. My interactions with my students are stronger, more perceptive, and more nuanced. I come from a strong place of being anchored.
And most unexpectedly, my creativity has come out to play in force. Through honing and polishing that pathway out of myself, I have unexpectedly created a conduit for my creativity and a sharpness and clarity in my ideas. I realise that the “bluntness” of my creative self that I felt when I left my words + music for too long was from lack of practise. Essentially, everyday, I am practising being more myself, seeing more of myself, having the creative conversation, and creating.
I am right on the edge of how I want to say things more often now than when I blocked out hours of creative time. My skills in catching ideas are wily and cunning. I’m right there with the idea, with the technique, with the ability to snatch the right word out of the cacophony because I have been using them daily.
I feel like a have a palette of creative tones in front of me, and I am allowed to paint nuanced, sophisticated pictures with my sounds and words.
And the most heart-flipping?
What if I applied this to connection in the classroom?
What if I applied this to my own relationships?
What if I applied this to my own courage and healing?
What if I unfurled parts of myself in the same way and I am playing with creativity?
There are so many places we can become more articulate and fluent in the language if we were to engage in the practise of the skills more, in tiny little steps of learning, discovery and play.