The classroom dynamic becomes more durable over time, but it is also true that the smallest things can make or break an individual class. Today, for example,I was relatively prepared to finish teaching a song by the Wailin’ Jennys (One Voice), and, for most of the rehearsal, three of my more reliable singers were not only distracted, but unusually distracting.
I became frustrated with them, and, though I restrained myself, my frustration cluttered my own mind (musically and otherwise). I guess it seemed to me that there was no good reason for these normally attentive students to have gone over to the dark side and become conspirators in the destruction of my plan, but, as is so often the case, my frustration was the result of inadequate attention to the specifics of the situation. All students’ behavior occurs for a specific reason, but it is dangerously easy, I think, to feel as though a particular behavior has no right to occur in my class—that is, to forget, temporarily, that human beings (which our students are) do things for reasons, and (the corollary) to what they do we must address the reasons underlie the action.
Today, I had arranged the classroom in a slightly different way, so that everyone could see both me and the board, and (I realize now) the solar path had changed significantly since early January. The result of these two factors was that the sun had found its way directly into the eyes of these singers, and the remarkable thing is that I saw this. I observed this fact, but, focused as I was on getting through this song, I could not muster a more mindful response than simply demanding more of their attention. I saw it, but I did not see it, so I spent much of the class fighting, not with my students, but with the sun, and this took away from my ability to really command the attention I needed (as the conductor) to achieve ensemble.
I did, at least, remember to track down Floyd after class, and spend a few minutes working on some basic singing technique with him. I have been meaning two for a month (since I know he struggles, but I don’t have time to wait for him during classes). He was very willing to receive help and delighted in his quick progress.