Some of you may know that I participate in a great charity – The Random Act. (If you don’t know this, check out the link a little further down this page on the side menu.) We (known as “Enactors” ) work to inspire acts of kindness around the world both big and small. I have always believed that one person can change the world. (Yeah, I know – sounds illogical- but it is true! Did you not see what happened with those crazy ice buckets?) If you are in the Philadelphia area, you may have noticed the little yellow Mini Cooper sporting a mobile billboard on the back window. Look for it – it’s kinda cute. Each month The Random Act provides a #GetKind focus for our random acts. (Does that make it not so random? Hmmm. I maybe need to stop and ponder this for a moment. Okay, I’m back – nope, I think it’s still random.) This month it is education. And anyone with children, watching the news, breathing, and not hiding in a cave in South America knows that education, educators, and our kids, need all the random acts of kindness they can get.
Now I said “our kids” but if you have learned anything about me, you know that I don’t have children. In fact, I have 974 reasons not to have kids. (That’s a list for another day.) Mike and I have never wanted to have our own kids, and after 26 years of marriage, I’m pretty sure we made the right decision. Hell, we are barely responsible for ourselves much less other helpless, small, wrinkled, sometimes stinky, human beings. (I might have just described us?!) However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t found ourselves feeling like parents over the years. But more of that later.
As an educator, I have had many different types of interactions with students. I was a special education teacher in a middle school classroom. I worked side-by-side with my husband in his early years teaching indoor drum line. I have taught adults. I have even taught animals (or were those the adults? Anyhoo…)
As most teachers, parents, childcare workers, bosses, etc. know, one of the hardest things to do is motivate someone. Motivate to do , to not do , to change, to grow, overcome fear, take a risk, listen, smile, or eat your broccoli. We all reach for something that will make a difference and help push just a little bit farther. I was introduced to a wonderful poem many, many years ago. In 26 words, it says what I have so often felt in my heart is the very core of learning and education. So, when I need a way to reach kids and help them find the next level of strength required to take whatever steps they need to succeed, I often use this poem:
By Christopher Logue
“Come to the edge,” he said.
They said, “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
He pushed them…and they flew.
This poem has so much meaning to me. It embodies the pure process that a teacher must take to prepare a student to reach that greatness the defines him or her. For both teacher and student this can be easy or nearly devastating. (I mean, there is always that brief moment when you think “Oh Sh*t, that was a really bad idea!”) But always, you have to push. It’s your job! We provide the tools, guidance, information, snot rags, band aids, the occasional change of underwear, and support that kids need to step off the edge by themselves. Over the years Mike and I (as teachers, mind you!) have pushed, pulled, yelled, and bribed; we pleaded, cried, laughed, and smiled; we joked, shared, and sometimes said nothing. We made fools of ourselves to motivate; we danced to music that was only in our heads; we paid for mallets, supplies, food, housing, and even costumes, with our own money. We gave and we got back. Boy did we get back! We now watch “Our Kids” influencing the lives of the next group of great humans.
There comes a point in education when we are no longer a part of it. We will always continue to teach, but eventually they must fly alone. The hardest thing for any teacher (or parents, childcare workers, bosses, etc.) to do, is let go. But let’s not underestimate how hard it is to fly as well. Sometimes kids fall, sometimes they glide, sometimes they soar too high and find their wings melted by the sun. But without stepping off the edge, they will never get there. I recently was privileged to watch an entire group of students fly in a way that was truly remarkable. They soared higher than they should have been able. They flew as a single entity – holding each other up when needed. They flew into self-awareness, confidence, beauty, and life. They flew with grace and magnificence – and I cried to watch them go.
So this brings us back to October and the #GetKind focus on education. Education means so much more than books, pencils, erasers, and being shoved in a locker. Education is life (too heavy?). No, really – life – and it is in danger of dying. Whether it is music, arts, sports, science, or recess, some part of your kid’s education is in jeopardy. You all know that. But what you may not know, is that jeopardy extends to the human lives that those programs touch. Politicians want to talk about non-critical programs, about the budgets needed for equipment, about calendars and obligations. What they don’t want to talk about are the people that are those programs… about the lives that they save.
Over the years, I can say without question that we have been a part of saving the lives of many kids. How do we know? They have told us. Some were close to dropping out, some failing, some falling into gangs, some being lost to the system that didn’t understand them – some dying. Some would have been fine if our paths had never crossed, but we hoped we had a influence anyway. (Okay – there is a little ego inside me somewhere – I never said there wasn’t.)
I know most about the impact that music programs have on kids, (only because I married a musician) but whatever the program, I know it is the same. Music has a way of attracting misfits – of providing a place where being different is not only accepted, but outright encouraged. I know – I am one of those. Even at 47, I struggle with belonging. In the corporate world, I’m considered odd, strange, quirky, and sometimes “not quite right in the head.” But when I am around musicians, nobody cares. I’m embraced and accepted as a unique and beautiful individual. Without these program there will be kids that will not find the place they belong. The family that supports them will dissolve. Some of them will be fine, but some won’t. I will never accept the ones we couldn’t save. But I will never cease to keep trying.
I keep trying, encouraging, pushing, pulling, and making a fool of myself, but for all my big speechifying, I don’t have a solution. That’s why this month’s #GetKind focus is so important. Get kind in education – in some way – in any way you can! Take a small step. Do an act of kindness. The result will be fantastic!