By Dana C. Lamb
If you haven’t noticed, people are getting serious about celebrating two things: football and love. This week’s blog is going begin by tackling the second of the two. The end-of-year holiday decorations were barely back on the shelf and Cupid showed up with a truckload of silk red roses and three tons of heart-shaped chocolate. For the younger, it’s wondering if that special someone likes them back. It’s the tingles, the adrenaline, and the romance. For the older, it’s wondering how it could ever be so decadent, or on the other hand, where did it go. Regardless of relationship status, everyone wants to hear one genuine “I love you”… most especially on Valentine’s Day.
But I’m goofy, I suppose. “I love you” can be amazing, and when I enjoyed love once upon a time, I celebrated and treasured it every day. Now, in this new season, I have grown to appreciate the words “I trust you” because those words bear a significantly more profound meaning in my life. Recently, I have had six very important people in my life say that they trust me implicitly. Believe me when I say that hearing the words “I love you” and/or “I trust you” will hit your ear, and your heart, in very different ways. This got me thinking about how love and trust thrive by maintaining this sweet balance of tension in their coexistence –much like the inhale and the exhale. To love someone means that you have the courage to put your heart forward to meet the heart of another. To trust someone means that you are brave enough to let someone hold a key to a door to your soul. And quite frankly, that means more to me than a beautiful bouquet of roses.
By the third paragraph of my blogs, most readers wonder what on earth the preliminary topic has to do with music education. What does trust have to do with music education? The answer is: quite a lot, actually. Teachers are allowed one of the highest privileges on the planet and the foundation of that honor is trust. We are entrusted to stand before your children and to ensure the mastery of new knowledge, we are entrusted with their safety when they are in our classrooms, and we are trusted to shape their future. We are trusted to craft every single word, every tone, and every inflection in ways that are meaningful to our students. We are trusted to recognize when our students are having an off day and to be intuitive enough to ask why. We are trusted with their dreams, their fears, and their ideas about what they think about themselves, people in their world, and how they successfully connect to all of that. We are trusted to bring care, compassion, and the open heart to the classroom regardless of personal experiences or challenges. And in the end, we trust in our training that we can handle it all: provide quality education, create meaningful experiences, build character, handle issues as they arise, and God forbid, and to manage the rare emergency. Trust is the cornerstone of education.
Anyone who works with children knows that to earn a child’s trust is like finding the Hope Diamond. It conjures a silent awe in its pricelessness and beauty, and it is not something that should ever be taken for granted. And part of that trust is giving every student every possible opportunity to discover who they could be in a safe and nurturing environment. If you handle this trust with tremendous care and recognition for the invaluable treasure that it is, it will be carried forth and paid forward exponentially because to learn is an amazing gift. Further, to have a season of learning from someone you trust can foster a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Ultimately, to learn what trust is within the context of the student-teacher relationship is the catalyst to mastery, but even more than that, self-confidence, self-actualization, intrinsic motivation, and defining moments of achievement. I’ve seen it in action and I can promise you that it’s more beautiful than any diamond I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen the Hope Diamond).
There is one absolute non-negotiable that must exist or all the trust in the world does not matter. It is simply this: Trust cannot exist if the student doesn’t feel like they have a place in their classroom and in their school. And sadly, because we are reducing and eliminating music programs, for so many kids that essential foothold, that precious tethering to education, is just lost because they discovered that their happiest place was in the music room. In every academic class, even the youngest of children perceive their place along a vertical structure. They are quick to notice who are the best readers and best at math, who isn’t, and where they fall on that ladder. In addition, they socially evaluate themselves along that same model with the popular kids at the top and the less popular, or even those considered outcasts, toward the bottom. In the music room, the continuum is horizontal with arms flung wide welcoming personal individuality and creative expression. It’s the ultimate leveler and by design it can be a place where a tremendous amount of trust can develop and solidify.
Even Billy Joel wrote about it being a “matter of trust.” If you haven’t seen the recent youtube video of his visit to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, I would highly recommend that you view it here. http://www.lifebuzz.co/billy-joel/ If you weren’t sure what trust could look like on a musical level, this is one of the best examples I’ve seen in a while. This quintessential icon chose to trust a young man from the audience to accompany him on one of his timeless classics, “New York State of Mind.” The instantaneous and mutual exchange of unabashed trust held my breath until the very last note. Truly, these are the defining moments that make musicians. That kid will never play the same again, I assure you.
Trust is precious and if it’s injured or lost, we all know hard it can be to heal or reclaim. We, as the grownups, the smarters and wisers have to wake up and realize that today’s children are deserving of every possible opportunity to be the best, happiest, and successful people that they can be. They trust us to see around the bend and to help prepare them for their future. They have to know that they have a place to belong, not just in our classrooms that can help sow those seeds toward those dreams, but that the world is waiting for their unique contribution. For some of them, their unique contribution is music. Could you possibly imagine a world without the undeniably powerful contributions from Billy, Ray, Loretta, Janis, Dolly, Diana, Michael, Gloria, etc.?
To trust someone is to give them the key to a door to your soul. Sometimes beyond that door to that hallowed space awaits a student’s dreams and hopes, the likes of which we may never know unless we give every student the opportunity to begin their future in schools that offer well-balanced and comprehensive education. I implicitly trust that we have the army of educated teaching professionals and administrators to do exactly that. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly trust that we have a nation of parents that are willing to support that vision. And I trust that we can do this if we all work together for these amazing children that are the future, our future. Lastly, I trust that if we all focus on the single most important factor – the children – that we will rise again stronger than ever and America will regain its position as the beacon for public education and student achievement.
There; now I’ve handed you the key to one of my doors to my dreams both as teacher and as parent. I trust you. Let’s do this.