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seen, valued + heard

April 8, 2018 , , , , , , ,

It’s been one of those weeks where I have been kicked around. Arse-kicked. And not in the normal “teaching kicks my arse” kind of way. In a deeply personal way.

And it made me think about my own relationship with students, and how I endeavour to have the hard conversations with them.

This week, I had my worthiness as a musician put on the line. I was bumped off the accompanying roster, without word or explanation, and replaced by another accompanist. I am not driven by ego or pride, only excellence, so if it happens that there is someone else more suited to the job with a more correct skills set, then it is absolutely fine with me. And it turned out in the end that the swap made perfect sense.

But here’s what cut:

I was not spoken to. I was not told. I found out in the most uncomfortable way possible. This was a place where I was supposed to be playing for the Year 12s I have spent the year thus far nurturing and growing up into confident and expressive performers. Would I want to play for them? Of-fucking-COURSE I would. My heart’s connected! I love theseĀ students, I’ve watched 10 weeks of failure and rising, struggle and success. WHY WOULD I NOT WANT TO PLAY FOR THEM?

And I realised, having watched them perform, and having played for only two out of the original seven students I was supposed to play for, that it was NOT the fact that I didn’t play for them that cut my moral compass.

It was the fact that I was not approached with the courageous, hard conversation in the first place. I was not told, in terms that reflected my value and work, that I would not be doing this gig, but that I was seen for the excellence of teaching, support, and care I was giving to these students. I didn’t even have the logistics explained to me.

Here’s the thing; we all of us can live with things we don’t like if we are allowed to experience them from a place of worthiness. It might take time and struggle, grieving, swearing, and whatever brand of chocolate is your drug of choice to alleviate the annoyance + disappointment of the situation. The point is, everyone DESERVES to feel valued. Has a RIGHT to worthiness.

That’s not to say we deserve to get everything we want. We certainly should NOT. We need to accept our skills, our failings, our successes, and have an accurate barometer of our profile as people and professionals. But at NO POINT should our worthiness be on the line.

It took a day of feeling bent out of shape and a great deal more struggle to get myself back to equilibrium. And I am FLUENT in the language of self-care. I am not afraid of internal struggle. Even with my healthy sense of self as a teacher, musician, and professional, it cut deep and took way more time that it should to recover from.

What this whole experience highlighted to me was the courage required to initiate these challenging conversations. It also demystified to me my rapport with my most challenging students. I DON’T have a perfect track record with all my students. But for some reason, I have street-cred. And I am the most non street-wise, non-sassy of them all.

Yet I am loved and respected by my students. This I know to be true.

I work off kindness, compassion, and courage. I want excellence, but not at the cost of worthiness and well-being. I approach each student and put INTO WORDS why I’ve made certain decisions, why certain outcomes have gone pear-shaped, what realities they’ve placed themselves in. I approach a kid in person about a failed grade. I acknowledge them. My words resonate with value. I agonise how I should language things, or how a conversation should go, because I care about their worthiness. Every kid has VALUE to me.

It’s so incredibly present to me when I’ve been put through the emotional wringer how very important that process is, and how MUCH courage it takes.

It’s a courage I willingly engage with. It’s called integrity.

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