Wow! How time flies when you are having fun! Time can also fly when you are just busy living life. . . surviving and sometimes thriving! Over these past few months I have taught in Kodaly music teaching certification courses at TWO universities, started a new part-time job teaching music at a K-8 school, continued teaching my university courses, coordinated the student teacher cohort at my university, and continued to write my dissertation. Somehow during all of this I need to continue working out, maintain friendships, and spend time with my boyfriend, Aaron. On top of everything, I need to find my voice, my zen place, meaningful activities where I can focus like a laser beam on something valuable. How can I find my voice, stillness, in the midst of the whirlwind?
I have launched the professional development careers of many of my esteemed colleagues. I noticed they had something valuable to contribute and, with my friend Gabby, designed and coordinated music teaching workshops in our area (South Texas, 2009-2012) that often featured the inventive approach our friends used in their classrooms. Now, those friends have gone on to present locally, nationally, and serve as leaders on boards and committees. I gave them a platform, and they took it and ran with it. My friends found their voice. What about my own?
My own voice, that I thought I knew so well, wanted to do research and connect research to real-life practices in the classroom. I wanted to marry the researcher and the practitioner. Originally, my ideas was to have a dedicated center for learning where teachers and researchers could converge and consider the best practices and discover new ways of teaching and learning in a natural setting. Perhaps this would be connected to preparatory division. Perhaps this would be some sort of joint initiative between classroom teachers and university faculty and students. We would create a database with abstracts and comments so classroom teachers would not have to read numerous articles to find what could effectively inform their teaching. They could search for a topic, come up with the latest research on one day, and then decide how to alter their approach.
Well, that was BEFORE graduate school. When I started my Ph.D., the world turned from black and white into grey and in some ways I found myself a little lost. I got to explore a lot of different ways of making music and experiencing music and creating with music that did not always jive with my previous perceptions of music, of teaching, or of life. Now my friends say, “You need to present.” “You need to publish.” My next question that follows is “I need to present and publish on what?” I can think of a lot of interesting things, but what aspects are the most salient, the most potent for developing a platform of ideas and initiatives that will actually help others? I am on a journey, like a bedouin in the desert, like a roving bard. There must be some kind of space where I can put down roots, plant myself, and flourish. There must be a place in the world of ideas and imagination where I can find my voice. What is your voice? Where is your thinking right now in your career in your life? I do not have it all figured out. However, there are three things I am reminding myself that might help you as well!
1. Take a moment to sit a spell!
My grandmother from Texas used to always say to me, “Corrie, come sit a spell.” I think about that now. Sometimes in our fast-paced world, (especially teaching music where you have to keep things moving), we do need to stop. We need time just to breathe and think. One blog post from Zen Habits recommended that you write a lot and then notice what rings true and what does not. One reason to write in a blog! As an artist, writing song lyrics and creating music also helps. Often, artists have their own ways of “writing”! Sometimes, I just need to stop and listen and hear myself think.
2. It’s about you!
Being you is okay! You are vital to the world. You have valuable input into your school, work, and your profession. The Accidental Creative blog post asks a number of questions to help an individual find their focus. Because I teach music, I often see the world through music and movement. I noticed recently the difference between traditional contra dancing and an urban dance battle. In the contra dancing, everyone does the same thing. They are all adhering to an established movement sequence and functioning together.
This is a good thing. This is a beautiful thing. To see contra dancing at it’s best is both elegant and gratifying. There is something so wholesome and pure about the community evidenced in the music and the movement moving in an symbiotic relationship. Then I experienced an urban dance battle.
PIC Wow! That was so different! There was still a sense of community and support. Sometimes dancers moved in sync as a group. At other times, they cheered each other on when dancers showed of their moves individually. You could tell that dancers had to have practiced and spent hours alone perfecting what their own individual movement might be. There was space for the individual voice to flourish in movement and then transfer to more self-confidence in daily life. They got their swag!
3. It’s not ALL about you!
I looked at some of these sites, such as this Toastmasters site, about “finding your voice.” Honestly, finding a focus in the world is NOT all about you. It’s not all about me. It’s not about any of us in particular. It is about what good we can do in the world. Look around. Notice the problems around you, what you complain about the most. Do you have the knowledge, skills, or willingness to address the issues? Don’t sell yourself short. You might have more knowledge than you think. Once I met a teacher who had retired after teaching for 30 years. She talked about a workshop presenter coming into town and how amazing it was to meet this “master teacher.” My teacher friend had been teaching for 30 years, she definitely was a “master teacher” of her classroom, of her students. What about the professional world of teaching would make her think that she did not have someamazing things to contribute? So, take a look around. Where is there a need no one else seems to see? Where is there discouragement where others need to be lifted up? Where is there frustration and people are feeling overwhelmed? Where are there unique voices that are squashed because of our culture and time and place that need a hearing? In these places, you can enter. You can serve your community and your friends. In the meantime, you might just also help yourself. . . find your voice!
Crowfoot in Tacoma