I have been thrust into a mosh pit before and had to shin kick my way out. In case you were born before 1975, the easiest way to explain the modern day mosh pit is to imagine your body convulsing along to a tempo known to musicians as A 440, all the while hundreds of others are simultaneously experiencing a similar medical emergency and it is all occurring in a five-square-foot area. I like to equate it to demolition derby with bodies in the sweet ambience of "music" that penetrates not only your ear drums, but your actual sense of humanity. I can't forget to mention that it is accompanied by the odiferous scent of...I don't even know.
Yep, that's sixth grade band for you.
There are some days, many days, that I feel like I have been thrust back into that mosh pit, but now I'm supplied with a pair of fluffy house shoes. Please understand that I love this group of students. I love that they challenge me to be a better teacher. I love their successes and their failures. I love their stupid jokes and their horrible puns. I love their 6 minute stories. I especially love that they make my job...interesting. There have been days when I wanted to pull my hair out (really their's, but I've been told that is a bit too harsh and may push me into early retirement). There have been many days when I felt like they regressed eight months in less than 24 hours. Then, there are days like one I recently had when a student reminds me that they're not the only ones who need to reevaluate their behavior.
I'm not going to lie to you, I have fluffed my fair share of beginner and middle school aged band students' egos. I told myself I wasn't lying as long as I told them in context of their previous performance. I've said things like, "That was pretty good. But next time..." or "Not bad; it was a slight improvement from last time." Well, my logic was finally invalidated by none other than a sixth grader.
I have always felt that if I was kind in my assessments that students would be more receptive. And I simply didn't want to hurt their developing esteems. But for some, that apparently is not the best course of action.
It was a simple statement, but fraught full of wisdom beyond his years. "I don't want you to tell me 'it was pretty good, but...' I don't want to hear that." I thought he was surely being a jokester (he is a clown of sorts) or he simply wanted others to THINK that HE thought he did poorly. My immediate response came out rather dumb, "So, you want me to tell you that you played horribly?" Then, with more conviction I have heard from most students his age, he replied "Yes! That way I'll work harder and I'll get better!" I never realized how my constructive criticism was so destructive to this student. I wonder how many others have felt the same way and have simply remained quiet or quit altogether.
I thought I was constantly reevaluating myself as an educator, but I was wrong. I'm constantly trying to find some new gimmick to keep their interest and to manage their behavior. I have sought and used the advice of countless others who are much more experienced. No matter what I do, within mere days, the class is back to its antics.
So yeah, Mosh Pit.
I spend more of my time "managing" behavior than I do actually teaching in that class. It's like spending all that time shin-kicking my way out when I should have figured out how to avoid getting thrown into that mosh bit to begin with.
As educators, we need to reflect often and reevaluate our methods. Changing them or altering them should not be out of the question.
And tell dumb jokes sometimes, this age loves them.
Until next time...