chelsea cookAs I sit at my desk doing very important things and writing very important writings, I am under the constant vigilance of a 10” x 12” picture of my parents. Mom looks as though she is waiting for something and dad is looking like “What is he doing now?” There is an almost wry smile but not an approving one. This doesn’t really bother me as above that is a picture of my family and everybody is smiling. OK, the tall kid in the background was being a teenager but he was still the best looking kid in the entire civilized world - and who cares about the uncivilized world (which includes Texas).
Recently a nine year old boy was responsible for saving his father’s life by his quick and very thoughtful actions. This fourth grade student did some remarkable things when the odds were against anyone succeeding in getting help. Reading about him and his heroic action took me way back to when I was a real person. Way long time ago, oh, say back in the 60’s, I had it in my mind that I was going to teach kids as much as they could learn. Like many others before me, we set out to educate the kids we were responsible for. It took me a great deal longer than it did normal people to realize that the world of parents did not agree with that philosophy. Actually, some school principals did not agree either. This may be a shock to your psyche but some teachers finally gave up and tried to teach as much as they could given their circumstances. It has been proven over and over that negative rewards to stimuli will result in a change of behavior just as positive rewards will.
When teachers get blamed for low performance of students who do not do the work, mentally sleep through class, brag about cheating and not doing the minimum, then we get “low performing schools.” When teachers set high standards they are often criticized for being too hard. Many times I have been told that I was too hard and expected too much from the kids. Another band director friend was told, when he went into a new job, that “we just want the kids to have fun.” His answer? It was a classic and a philosophy any successful music program has: “We believe that hard work is fun.” His bands were always very highly rated and were among the best in this state, no matter which class was judged.
The philosophy that the successful band directors had, and certainly other successful teachers, was that the reach must exceed the grasp. I did not know that someone famous had said that but figured it out for myself when I had been told I expected too much from my students. The first several times I heard that I was almost shocked. I never considered myself as being too hard and at times thought I “backed off” too much. Someone, it may have been me, said that one would never get a ditch dug if you stood still with a shovel in your hands.
I hope you realize what I have said before about using myself as an example. I do NOT believe I was a world beater better than anyone Nobel Prize winner music teacher. It is just that I did some things correctly as did many of my colleagues, so I use my successes to illustrate.  I never got as good as my mentor and model, but he knew I had success and that pleases me. The nine year old boy I earlier spoke of will make many teachers happy.
It can only be imagined how he would have reacted if he had not known he was capable of doing the correct thing and taking immediate action. Boy and father were sitting in their auto waiting for movie time. Dad vomited and passed out; boy called 9-1-1; line busy; called aunt; she couldn't find them in parking lot; 9-year old said to meet at box office; got dad to hospital and he is now fine. He had a major stroke.  OK, now go back and think what this scene would have been if this boy had been told that things were just too hard for him as he “was just a little boy.” Nosir, his internal being said he could save his dad’s life so he acted. He is a fourth grade student who has the confidence of a much older person.
With great good feelings, I can remember the early mornings when I looked out at many sets of eyes and all of them saying, “OK, old man, teach me something new today. Make me better.”  I loved it!
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