When teachers take a break too.
When teachers take a break too.
“Cher, why did you give me a B?!” The student spouted in a somewhat accusatory tone.
“R”, I started in my most patient tone, knowing he didn’t take well to confrontations and challenges. “I didn’t GIVE you that B. You GOT a B. It’s what you earned for yourself.” I ended with a tiny knowing smile at him, just to show that I wasn’t really chiding, but reminding him of the truth he already knows.
My statement seemed to surprise him a little – I could tell from his loss of words, which doesn’t happen very often. He then gave a slightly sheepish smile. I knew he had been aiming for an A, and it was understandable that the B had left him disappointed.
More than learning where he had lost valuable marks, I also hope he learnt the value of taking responsibility for his effort and actions, and the importance of accepting disappointment in life, without blaming them all on others or on external circumstances.
One of the inevitable side effects of teaching music in a classroom is that sometimes, the classroom instruments become more than that – they become weapons of childish acts of revenge, objects to tease with, objects which can be used to get attention.
After a particular trifle between 2 groups in which Boomwhackers were hurled through the air, I got them to stay back after class to Talk.
Long story short – after rounds of blame-pushing and fact-crosschecking, the culprits finally owned up to their actions and agreed to accept the consequences.
Still feeling angsty over their misbehaviour, I then curtly told them to make it quick and to make sure I can see how much dust they have each cleaned from the room. The 2 boys picked up the brooms and started sweeping earnestly. After a while, 2 small mounds of dust accumulated on the floor. Boy1, after sweeping his mound into the dustpan, went over to Boy2’s mound and attempted to do the same. Boy2 became startled. “Hey!! Don’t steal my dust!!”
That he would be so protective over a mound of dust tickled me to no end.
Almost at once, I felt the irritation and angst over their earlier misbehavior dissipate, and I saw them for what they simply are: Young boys who are growing up. With hormones and all.
I allowed myself to crack a half-smile (even though I really wanted to burst into laughter), and told them there was lots more dust under the teacher’s table and under the stacks of chairs. It became almost like a game, with them trying to show me how much dust they could each collect.
I went back to the staffroom and shared the dusty story with a colleague, and we had a good laugh over it.
Self care for the day, done!
I think of the young girl who used to walk down those hallways.
The one who used to wonder if she’s on the right path, if what she was doing was what she was meant to be.
I wonder how is she now.
A conversation with a close friend recently got me thinking about the extents one would go for meaning.
There are people in this world who find meaning in making sacrifices for the greater good, staying on in environments they may find draining and tiring, just so they can feel the satisfaction of making a difference in an institution, with people they care about and work closely with.
There are also people in this world who cannot imagine being in their shoes, choosing instead to pursue meaning on their own terms, seeking to be separated from an environment they find stifling, regardless of the rewards the system and institution may grant to keep people inside.
As someone who (currently) belongs to the latter camp, I tried to understand why my friend from the former would want to make sacrifices like that. To delay her own aspirations so that she can make “lasting impacts” in her institution, so that she can leave a “legacy” in the programs she heads, so that she can pass her work on to a “successor”.
The conclusion I came to was that it is not for me to judge how different people form meaning out of different things and circumstances. Perhaps I am the self-centered one, the one unwilling to make personal sacrifices for the greater good, masking my selfishness under the guise of “seeking personal meaning”.
I just hope that we haven’t fallen into the “someday” trap, the mindset that “someday I’ll do what I want, once I have accomplished this, and that …”
I hope, for the sake of my friend, that these sacrifices for the “lasting impact”s and “legacy”s are truly meaningful and worth it.
It was a physical fight – Boy1 was wielding the broom, Boy2 was furiously using his legs, kicking to defend himself and attack his attacker.
Their fight was stopped.
“Why are they behaving this way?”
“Don’t they know what’s right and wrong?”
“Why don’t they get it?”
“Have all we spoke about in class been for nothing?”
“Why am I so affected by this?”
“Why am I feeling emotional over this small matter?”
“There’s been worse things.”
“Your class isn’t the worst, please. There are other worse students out there.”
“Why doesn’t anyone understand that I’m trying to prevent them from becoming those worse students?”
“You need to be fierce with them.”
“This one already fierce leh.”
“It’s ok to feel emotion.”
“It’s ok to feel.”
“It’s ok to show emotion.”
“You care too much.”
“Why do I care so much?”
“I don’t intend to stay on.”
“After this sem, 2 and a half years more.”
“I wish I had done something differently.”
“I’m sorry to call you about this.”
“You don’t have to be ashamed about feeling.”
“Appreciate your emotions.”
“They’re what make us human.”
“It’s ok to not be ok.”
“Would you choose to spend time teaching something to the class which is not in the syllabus, which will not help them at all, and not help them score well in exams?”
And the answer came as two rather resounding “NO”s.
As the fourth person seated at the table, I silently reminded myself that this is why I need to leave.
By: Miranda, D. (2013).
From: International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 18:1, 5-22.
This article is a literature review, which highlights how much of adolescent developmental psychology literature and research leaves out the role of music in an adolescent’s life. It concludes by stating that more research into the developmental role of music can present more insights into the psychological, social and cultural needs of the contemporary adolescent.
We know that most of the songs we seem close to our hearts are the songs we listen to from our teens to 20s. There is more research and literature about how music can help in reminiscing in elderly patients and clients, helping them make sense of the world around them in their aging years. “Use of familiar repertoire” is a staple music therapy intervention and technique in working with aged care. Most of these “familiar repertoire” are the songs that accompanied them through the tumultuous years of adolescence and young adulthood.
It would make sense, then, to study how the same songs which adolescents are identifying with as they are growing up, are being used (consciously or unconsciously)to help them cope in their psychological and emotional development. With more understanding in this area, teachers, developmental psychologists, counsellors, and therapists might then be able to better understand how to help adolescents cope with the struggles of growing up. These struggles could include: Peer pressure, identity searching and formation, emotional issues, mental health.
Example: I’ve noticed that having the same tastes in music is one of the first things which bond students together into long-lasting friendships. It could be the latest k-pop band, or just the single which became a hit 2 years ago. The moment 2 or more individuals find out they have the same tastes in music, a tentative friendship is formed, which could then be strengthened or dissolved depending on other factors. Music, then, could be used as a bonding agent within the class, especially to aid students who might not be as apt or skillful in social aspects.
During music lessons this week, I asked students what is their “current favorite song”, promising that I would try to incorporate those into our music lessons. My motive, apart from making the lessons relevant to them, is also to improve the social dynamics of the class. Through group musical activities, individuals who might have found it hard to adjust to the social environment would be given an alternative platform to engage with their classmates, and hopefully blend in better into the social fabric of the class. Being well-adjusted is one of the key factors which could prevent later problems from surfacing, such as bullying, truancy or loss of interest in academic studies.
Am aiming to read and reflect on at least on music therapy article every week and see how I can apply / transfer the content into the music classroom. Part of self-development and reflective practice, and to not lose touch with the therapeutic side of things!
When I first heard this word: “Supervision”, my heart was struck with fear and worry. And is it any surprise, coming from a system and culture where this word is linked to images of someone standing by the side while you do your work, watching you with a critical eye to make sure you’re doing your work “right”, making sure you’re meeting all the necessary criteria and prerequisites to be deemed as passed and qualified? Supervision, even with the best of intentions, have unfortunately become a word of relatively negative connotations in our work culture.
Despite my initial trepidation, I soon realized, to my relief and delight, that Supervision in music therapy (or Allied Health, for that matter), does not have direct correlations to my perceived impressions of being Supervised. It’s in fact the opposite – a whole culture of being non-judgemental, accepting that the typical human being is failable, that everyone has emotional baggage, that everyone has times when they need to talk to someone about their emotions and not only about how good they are in their skills and job.
In such an emotionally-charged job, Supervision is seen as necessary and some places, like mental health wards, make supervision mandatory for the clinicians there.
I was thinking about all these, and wondered: Why isn’t Supervision made mandatory for Teachers?
Not supervision in the lesson-observation, work review sense, of course, but in the above-mentioned sense. Supervision for teachers in the sense of each teacher having someone they can go to to sort out whatever comes up in their work. It may not even necessarily be senior teachers, just like music therapists don’t always go to senior music therapists for supervision. As long as it’s someone who understands the nature of their work and the nature of the client population they work with. For teachers, it may be someone who works with students of similar socio-economic status, or perhaps someone in another school who teachers the same subject.
There is informal Supervision, of course. Teachers talk to each other all the time. Along the aisles of the staff room, along the corridors. Over lunch. Mentor-mentee sessions – these probably come closest to Supervision. But even then (at least in my experience), the mentor-mentee talks were always filled with issues like classroom management issues, pedagogy, effective delivery, etc. There was little focus on the individual perspectives of the teacher and how that individuality could affect day to day interaction and working.
The best supervision I’ve had so far was when working in Mental Health. The client group was undoubtedly the most challenging I had encountered up till that point, and having good supervision was so essential to my well – being, development and growth.
In the confidential, closed door, one-to-one sessions, I was able to bring up emotions I felt when working with certain people, ask questions about MT interventions and techniques, discuss academic readings and discourses with the much more experienced and ever non-judgemental supervisor. That experience really made me view Supervision in a different light, and now I find myself wondering if the burn-out rate among teachers would be less if we could have a culture like this. A culture of supervision where it is ok to talk about our problems and inadequacies, instead of trying to hide them and hope that you can overcome them in time to produce a good lesson for observation, to push for that school carnival, to pull off that speech day concert.
Over a meeting with Lecturer K the other day, she asked me how I was going with the course, giving me very encouraging feedback and advice. One of them was: make sure you get yourself a good supervisor and continue to develop yourself professionally when you start working as a MT.
The culture of supervision is so strong in this field that anyone who lets it be known that they don’t have a supervisor to go to is frowned upon and thought of as less-than-professional. It implies that they are not making efforts to reflect, talk about the difficulties faced, and possibly not keeping up to date with the latest developments in the field. That’s how important Supervision is viewed.
Maybe it’s time someone introduces this concept to Education Ministries and get something started. Teachers, like therapists, also give a lot of themselves – mentally, emotionally and physically. And any work with vulnerable individuals is bound to expose vulnerable aspects of ourselves too. Why should teachers be denied the platform to work through these vulnerabilities, take charge of their own professional and personal growth, empower themselves to be the best person they can be, and ultimately present the best aspects of themselves and their abilities to the ones that matter the most- their students ?
This film really spoke to the educator within. Based on a true story: 84-year old Kimani Maruge, who gave up his life fighting for his country’s independence, finds himself being denied the right to quality education. The battles he fights are not only with the administration, but also within himself. The teacher who supported him, Jane Obinchu, is also an inspiration.
This passionately-written post by the actress who played Jane tells of some parts of the filming process and follow-ups. It’s really touching to know that the crew left the community with more improvements than when they first arrived for filming.
“Learn until soil gets into your ears.”
– Kimani Maruge