viernes, 8 de julio de 2016

My reflections on teaching and singing the best that you can

     I simply had to watch this film.  It was about a "not perfect woman" who found inspiration in art to pursue a dream.  I thouroughly enjoyed watching the film Florence Foster Jenkins and I just couldn´t stop myself from thinking about the importance of art in everyone´s life.  I remember that this week I had to substitute a teacher friend and I saw a poster announcing a play, called Richard, a farce (a play I had the chance to see and enjoy last year)  Being of both literary and historical insterest I thought about recommending it to my students.  When I asked them if they ever went to the theatre. they said they didn´t because they didn´t like it.  I then went on to ask them how many plays they had seen, they told me that many.  So I urged them to go on seeing until they saw something they liked.  In fact I told them to go to the theatre, cinema, museums, art galleries and concerts and never stop doing that.  Art is necessary in everyone´s life.
In my city and my country in general there are many opportunities to enjoy art and the many offers cater for different tastes.  It is a great thing to be able to enjoy such a variety at reasonable prices, often for free!  I usually check what´s on offer and mingle with the crowds and enjoy the influence of that "artistic feeling" long after I have come back home. Sometimes when it is a concert I sing the songs and they stay in my mind for days.
That is why I googled Florence´s original recording as soon as I sat down at my computer.  When one of the soldiers from Florence´s audience commented that his mother sang better than her, I felt identified because I grew up listening to my mother singing songs from every possible genre you can find in Spanish: tangos, zarzuelas, religious songs... even today she has a song for every comment you make for example if your sentence ends with the word "fish" she could probably begin singing the famous José Luis Guerra´s song Burgujas de amor which chorus says "Quisiera ser un pez..." (I´d like to be a fish")  My kids say: "Granny has a song for everything!"
What I loved about the film I have just seen is how it shows the healing, nurturing nature of art.  It´s not about mastering every given discipline, but about thoroughly enjoying experiencing it.  I can cook, and I do it on a regular basis, but I don´t aspire to get a Bocuse d´Or, in fact the roasted meat today was a bit overcooked, but I enjoy what comes around the ceremony of cooking: shopping for the best quality ingredients, getting inspired at the supermarket, inviting my parents, opening the bottle of malbec just before we all sit together to talk and eat.  The same applies for going to the cinema, theatre, etc.
When we teach we are also responsible for lighting in our students the love for what they are learning.  We have a great responsibility, and it hurts when we discover that our students will not be "virtuosos" of the language.  However I agree with Prof Mitra and the inspiration behind the School in the Cloud .  Sometimes we just have to be supportive and encouraging.  In another class, I was asked to make my students talk and I arranged a circle of 7 chairs to have a speaking circle activity where all of them should have to talk for one minute about something.  Of the seven students, one of them left (she is above 18, this means she can do it, and it also means that she couln´t care less about participating in this activity, judging from her behaviour during the class), another one invented some story just to "do the exercise" and the last one was releaved that the bell rang before she finished.  However, the other four shared stories of learning to ski, participating in writing contests, conflicts they´ve had at work and regrets.  Needless to say they spoke for more than one minute and they communicated fluently and openly.  As a teacher I focused on the message and I can´t say I noticed many mistakes, because there weren´t and because I was making sure they felt I was listening.  With my full attention.  I was also inviting everyone to contribute to the conversation.
Learning is a painful process, we are constantly exposed to losing face in front of others.  Florence was as well.  However, as she said in the film "People may say I can´t sing, but no one can ever say I didn´t sing."  In a world where many talk about "giving our students voices", let us, teachers be the first ones to listen.  We have a ticket in the best possible location, even if sometimes our ears can suffer a little. Let´s be our students´inspiration!