Failure is not a dirty word.
As the summer holidays dwindle away, I mentally prepare for the journey I am about to take with my students: facilitating their self-discovery, encouraging them through their frustration, finding patience when they don’t hand work in, and refraining from losing my temper when they push the boundaries of social etiquette.
Over the years I have come to realise that I am not a teacher of Performing Arts; I teach students.
- What values do I want to instil in them?
- How would I like them to feel about themselves?
- How can I encourage them to be responsible, proactive citizens of humanity?
- How do I teach them the value of love and compassion?
- How do I teach them resilience?
I believe the questions above are more important than:
- How do I get my students to get a good grade?
- How can all students become better at music and performance?
- Why don’t they love NAPLAN?
The questions in the second set (maybe not the last one) are important for different reasons. These are content-driven and focus on academic outcome. The first set of questions focused on the individual: their wellbeing and their sense of purpose.
This year, I am going to focus on sending an inclusive, encouraging message to my students: failure is healthy, or in the words of Gerald Marko,
“What was ever perfect the first time you did it?”
I attended a voice workshop 2 days ago. As a teacher, I often attend workshops in order to explore pedagogical trends, network, maintain registration, and generally stay engaged in my field. I have so many good things to say about the presenter I had the pleasure of listening to and learning from. I have so much respect for Gerald Marko and a newfound respect and love for my instrument, my voice.
How easy it is to take our bodies for granted. As a teacher and a performer my voice is my livelihood. I recommend to anyone who has a voice, to undertake a workshop on voice care, physiology, and maintenance. Many singers focus so much on the outcome and little on the process. Gerald inspired me to not only take better care of my voice in the classroom, the studio, and on stage, but to also inspire my students to embrace failure as a path to mastering one’s craft.
It’s usually our ego that is a hindrance to progress. Accepting that is okay to look foolish sometimes allows one to take more risks and learn. To manage the ego and awaken consciousness read anything by Eckhart Tolle; it’s psychologically liberating.
So go on! Do something you have always been too proud, too busy, or too fearful to do. Enjoy failing at it over and over again. Enjoy the feelings of confidence gradually building as your brain develops the neural pathways necessary to turn your new skills into good habits. Most of all enjoy the mindfulness and humility that this process offers. There is a world of knowledge at your feet, enjoy discovering it and put your inner critic in its place.