I'm going to tell a quick story. It's still a bit raw, honestly.
A few weeks ago we had our annual winter concert. I was so excited! I picked the music carefully and we started rehearsing in August.
We worked and worked and worked, and I could tell we were going to nail it.
One of my classes was particularly strong. They had this beautiful three-part harmony on "Winter Wonderland" and they knocked it out of the park every single time we rehearsed in class. Three distinct parts, balanced and beautifully sung.
I was so confident that I accepted an invitation to go perform at another school. However, scheduling conflicts would not allow it.
I just knew it was going to be good. And honestly, I really don't think there is anything more either I or the students could have done to prepare.
So, the night of the concert came. And this group got up to sing. As soon as they started, I could tell something was wrong. I don't know if it was nerves and being in front of an audience, but they were so quiet I could barely hear them a few feet away.
They didn't sound bad--they just didn't sound like much of anything at all. Those three distinct parts, those beautiful harmonies I was so proud of--they all just vanished.
The next day, we performed for just the school and, although it never quite hit the glory it had in rehearsal, it was much stronger.
I don't know. I really don't. Adolescents are very skittish. They can seem so confident and more until they get in front of a group. It might have been that their parents and older peers were watching.
It might have been that I slightly arranged the order in which they stood on the risers.
Or, it might be the fact that adolescents just have a lot going on inside and sometimes, that overwhelms everything else.
The important thing is not to take it personally. I worked so hard and did all I could have done. I don't know that anyone else could have done more. But it's not about me. And even though I want performances to blow the audience away, I need to remember it's not about me!
The reality is that those kids gained something from all that practice. I believe that the value of aesthetic experience and creation are greater than the results of a single performance.
I believe that the process is right, and, next year, added maturity will combine with the process to produce more visible results.
But if not, it's important to keep my eye on the ball.
My oldest class did a lovely job, actually. They sang wonderfully. Last year, though, they did the same thing--they just froze up and got super quiet.
That tells me that the process is working, but that I need to be patient. There is probably something developmental here, and I need to keep working with it.
If you have an adolescent, or you teach or coach one, you will inevitably have moments when you are are disappointed or even embarrassed. Remember that it's not about you. And it's not really about the game or the concert or the recital or the play or the emotional climate of the family or whatever else the context is.
Remember that we strive for excellence, but we have to understand that the internal aspects of an adolescent's life, and all that's going on there, might well take priority over what we want. (Note: never tell them that. Give them high expectations--but inside, remind yourself that there are limits)
The key, I think, is to have the process down. To continue with patience. The results will come. Just not necessarily when you want them, or how you want them.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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