Conversations in Education

From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.

From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators.  If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.

 

Once More with Feeling

By Rob Lewis

I’m learning to play the guitar. Oh yes, it’s been a longstanding, bucket-list wish of mine to play and sing and have others sing along. That goal lies just over the fence in far greener pastures. But that fence is tall and I’m not going to lie—it creaks. Yet, as time passes, my hands get a little more familiar and seem to make sense of this seemingly unnatural process. 

Our students embrace this process every day. I see them lacing up jazz shoes, rosining their bows, murmuring their lines in hopes to deliver their best performance. To raise the bar. To be the next Yo-Yo Ma or Misty Copeland. I admire these students, who confront moguls and pitfalls, because they inhabit the essential value of an artist: get up and try again. Look back to learn and look forward with renewed, revised vision. Undoubtedly, there is an art in the setback. 

It’s so easy to get caught in the emotional trap involved with failure. Of course! Who doesn’t? We’re always eagerly and earnestly giving 100%; therefore, when we trip and fall, we bruise our pride and lament the decisions we made. However, it is in that moment between staying down and getting up, something magical emerges: resilience. 

“Check your ego at the door.” You can hear this time-tested axiom in every performing arts classroom. While we may associate the motto with dismissing arrogance, in actuality, when you let your ego go, you are destined to bounce back quicker and with less pain. We march forward, proudly brandishing a mistake and displaying the fortitude to overcome those thorny challenges to create something great. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a craft.

Our students exercise courage in risk-taking every day. As teachers, our part is to set up a room that is supportive, safe, and warm—and perhaps with a dash of inspiration to put wind in our sails. After all, when a class is at ease having peeled away worry and woe, we put our minds and our hearts in the magic of this moment. And what a ripple effect! I have the utmost joy watching the culture of care reveal itself through peer-to-peer positive reinforcement, whole-being listening, and that precious gift of giving another person uninterrupted time. 

Imagine: you are at work and you have a presentation to spearhead or an idea to pitch—and everyone in the room is rooting for you! Suddenly your wellspring of potential geysers upward because you’ve unburdened yourself from stress and concern and can just concentrate on your goal—or in this case, art. This is why the performing arts program champions the ensemble-driven learning environment. Through upholding a supportive culture and sharing a common goal, individuality can emerge in leaps and bounds. 

An acting professor once told me, “There is only one of you in the entire world. There is no one, absolutely no one, who can be you and your magnificence.” We promote individuality via expressing your art and honing it through the process of craft. Then we infuse it into a collaborative journey. Be resilient, be kind, be magnificent. 

All of us started from somewhere—wide-eyed, vulnerable, inexperienced, not so polished, but eager to shine. And after years of practice, toss in some nicks, a few scratches, and a heart full of grit, we figured it out—or we’re still trying, at least. It’s not so unnatural as you'd think, and it gets a little more familiar each day, if we keep at it. I’m sure I’ll get blisters and break a few guitar strings before the year is up. But, as I wince from one twang to the next, I always remember say to myself, "just play."

 

Posted by rfeliciano on Monday November, 20, 2017 at 10:23AM
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Flintridge Preparatory School
4543 Crown Avenue La Cañada Flintridge CA 91011
Tel: 818-790-1178
Fax: 818-952-6247
Located near Pasadena and Los Angeles in La Cañada, CA, Flintridge Prep is a private independent, coed day school for grades 7-12.
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