Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wisdom of Youth

I am the oldest choir director in our school district.  I'm awfully young to be in that position, but circumstances have led to most of our schools hiring new directors in the last few years, and many of them are quite young.  22-23-24 young.

I'm getting used to the walker, but my hearing aids are giving me trouble.

Anyway, the other "new" middle school director is one of these youngsters; I think she is 23.  I have experience, she has energy and enthusiasm and optimism, so we often fall into conversations comparing out issues and methods of solving them.

An issue we have in common is Dramatic Divas.  These are the girls (usually in varsity choir) who believe they can get away with anything because they are SO INCREDIBLY TALENTED.  They can sing, sometimes very well, which means the director will never punish them for any bad behavior.

I should say that this view is not unreasonable.  There are a lot of people out there, choir directors among them, who will excuse an astonishing about of rudeness, disrespect, and even blatant defiance if someone is talented enough.  Or pretty enough.  Or rich enough.

I am not one of those people.  I made up my mind a long time ago that I wouldn't allow my choir to be held hostage to the whims of one student.  If my choir would collapse at the loss of one member, any member, then I'm not doing my job.  No one, myself included, should be indispensable.  The show must go on, after all.

Well, Young Teacher agreed with me, and then she said something so profound that it took me a while to process it fully:

"You know," she said, "I can teach a bad singer to be a decent singer.  I'm not sure I can teach a bad person how to be a decent person."

Wow.  I have been thinking about that statement for a week now.  The thing is, I do a lot of things to teach my students to be better people.  I teach responsibility, commitment, teamwork, hard work, tolerance, respect, and self-motivation every day.  That being said, those are things the kids only learn if they want to.  A student who crosses her arms, rolls her eyes, and audibly sighs after every sentence I say will not learn how to be a better person from me.  She won't learn anything from me.  She's made up her mind that she won't, and nothing I can do, no amount of dog-and-pony show from me, can change that.

So, yes, I can teach a bad singer to be a decent singer.  And I can help teach good kids how to be good adults.

And I still ask myself how I can do more.


Kristina P. said...

My coworker called me a rigid boundary monger the other day, because I have very firm boundaries. The kids I work with have plenty of other people who enable them and make excuses. I refuse to be a part of that and they need to learn accountability so they can be a better adult.

Snoodle Doodle Jr. said...

You and Young Teacher are right...for students like that, there isn't much you can do if they refuse to accept they are no better than anyone else.

As for those decent singers and good students, remember that they respect you for how you handled those great singers and poor attitudes. That's definitely something to be proud of.