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I have been watching outstanding educators and choral directors from all over Australia this week, inspiring hundreds of young people to a level of musical and personal excellence that has made my heart burst. These young people come from such different backgrounds, unified through a shared passion for singing. These young people have produced affecting, heartfelt, magnificent, perfectly detailed, truly outstanding performances. They have stepped on stage with a sense of self-worth, and a message to share. They have stood their sacred ground and affected time and space around them and in doing so, affected us, the listeners, in ways magical and unexpected. It’s been a weekend of defining, over and over, what it’s like to be human and joyfully alive!
And I have come to realise, unequivocally, all over again, that LOVE is what produces this excellence.
And ONLY love.
That this most positive source of momentum and motivation of young minds MUST come from a place of love, and that ONLY love can distill such pure passion and this particular brand excellence. A healthy striving. A healthy excellence.
This LOVE is disciplined and hard-arse. It can be quietly contained, and brief, depending on the mentor.
But it is NEVER, EVER derogatory, rude, or disrespectful.
Every chorister, whatever their unique set of strengths and weaknesses, personal or musical, is DEEPLY SEEN, HEARD, and VALUED, that their potential is maximised through persistent and tenacious growth, from a secure and safe foundation. THIS NEVER WAVERS OR CHANGES.
This LOVE can be playful, with the unique spark and joy between choristers, and their director. These playful moments are built through experience, a shared story, and TRUST. Only time and a sense of humour can produce this delightful connection.
This LOVE can be boring and monotonous. Choristers will not find each other eternally interesting, and the choral directors certainly won’t! But this love is founded through tolerance and care, and a quiet patience that walks, one step at a time, through the development and growing process. There are no cheap thrills, and a total guarantee for monotonous and very ordinary days of hard work.
This LOVE is shared through choral excellence. Each crystalline detail is refined and polished to that magical place of excellence not through fear, but through a high-held mutual respect for the music. And that respect for the composers’ words can only be embedded THAT DEEPLY by love. And that commitment to telling the story on stage, and the heat that comes off a performance which is unprecedented can ONLY be produced by this brand of love.
Why do I say this?
I have been forced out of my comfort zone this year.
I have been asked to consider the role of overt, un-earned discipline and flippancy, power, and shame. And you know what? I asked myself to be open-minded. And sure, I see that these all produce immediate results.
But they are not HEALTHY, LASTING, or EFFECTIVE. These are quick-fixes, and unbelievably damaging ones at that. Ones that take away years of confidence, joy, and motivation, and create an atmosphere of doubt and instability. Reversing that? Infinitely harder.
To create life-long, self-motivated, embedded results is truly a labour of love. Any educator and mentor who doesn’t want to be in it for the long haul, or have the tolerance to care for the needs of different young people should examine why they are here, entrusted with so much potential.
So I am going to stand against the tide for this one, backed so strongly by what I have experienced this week. Inspired by more people and wisdom than I can number, pulled to this point by the sheer force of what I have seen over and over these last few days.
Learning must be motivated by a unique respect and love.
There is NO QUESTION for me.
I have a complete and uncompromising dislike of fidget spinners. But THIS ONE I like.
This afternoon could not be improved. The book is a cracker!
You have no idea what you’re capable of until you are standing in that exact spot, faced with that exact decision, or looking at that exact opportunity.
Oh, I love working hard, and I’m annoyingly interested in life. But as for pushing myself out of my comfort zone? It’s so very easy to stay in the cocoon, and just inside the inside the lines.
I’ve done some extraordinary things in my life time when I’ve taken a leap of faith, but it always surprises me how easy it is to be comfortable, how easy it is to be alarmingly safe. Sometimes this is exactly what is needed, as the spirit finds strength in dreaming. Like a field in a fallow season, imagination, courage, and energy need to germinate and grow.
But there is a time for leaping as well…awkwardly, arms akimbo, legs flying, hair wild, eyes even more so! And leap you absolutely must to live. Because when we are pushed outside of our comfort zones in whatever way life dictates, we grow. So beautifully, and so essentially. It doesn’t have to be incredible and life-changing, it just has to mean that you are moving, one foot in front of the other.
And in those periods of intensive growth, everything looks different. How I wish I could pin this down more!
It all comes down to viewpoint, courage, and imagination:
A challenging student becomes a necessary and strengthening conversation, then bond, then seedling of change.
The chance to speak changes from being a scary thing, to a chance to change viewpoints, and affect opinions.
A choir rehearsal becomes a chance to energise a group of students who trust you, and to joyfully sing and be in a way they do not get to be in the classroom.
A composition becomes a story, a snippet of soul.
A book becomes a refuge, a ship of the imagination.
A conversation becomes a doorway, and a threading of trust and love.
Everything looks different. Everything bursts and brims with possibility.
You have NO IDEA what you are capable of, and what resonance your words carry, until you put yourself in that exact spot of learning + leaping!
I spent $45.60 on hot chocolate today. 🤣
In fairness, it was not all for me. My Year 12 kiddies got a bit spoilt today. For some, it was all that kept them standing, post GIJ.
This was a cracker:
Miss Year 12 on the phone to another Year 12 kiddie: “Ms Kwok’s doing the Mama Kwokkie thing! Get your arse down here NOW, this doesn’t happen often!”
Love this. Goodlife project + the wonderful work that Jonathan Fields is doing has captured my attention. Heartfelt, poignant, inspiring, challenging, and thought-provoking interviews from the couch.
Hop on and have a listen!
I reckon I stood under the shower this morning for a good 30 seconds before I realised I still had my glasses on. When you’re short-sighted + tired, it really doesn’t look that different. Until you start to lather up…! 😝
Generations in Jazz + parent-teacher interviews + 7:15am start for Grammarphones will do it. Week 2 is pulling out all stops.
How come 2 teachers can say exactly the same thing, and one will have little or no effect, and the other will create ripples and inspire action?
What is it?
It’s love; students need to be loved. This can be hard-arse, or playful, connective, or simple. But they will know if they are seen, valued, and heard by you. Nice words don’t do it. You can say all the nice + inspiring words that you want, but that won’t affect change. It’s the resonance of you truly loving them for who they are, however you do it, that will affect change.
It’s seeing them; it’s calling BS when they are not giving what they can, extending themselves, fighting the good fight, being more. It’s seeing through the bravado and pain to the tenderness inside. It’s hearing one thing, and interpreting it as something very different. It’s unfurling their defences in a way only a teacher can; not a parent, not a friend, not a boyfriend or girlfriend, but a teacher.
It’s being an authentic role model; you can’t love students without being a good person yourself. When you sign up to be a teacher, you sign up for life. You model good values, vulnerability, how to rise up from failure, joy, optimism, hard-assery, determination, grit, love, tenderness, and everything in between. You model the marrow of life, in full colour, in your own way.
It’s been optimistic about life; about having an optimistic + realistic point of view. When you are living with hope and agency, your students might see the world and living a good life as “possible”, too.
Students hear your words, but they listen with their eyes and hearts. In so many ways, they are far wise than us, in their own haphazard and angsty way!