As my husband and I wait for the band to start, we can’t help but notice the impressive display of instruments lined up along the back wall. I start noticing the fiddle, and the banjo, and the beautiful guitars. I begin getting excited for the music to start. My husband and I have managed to get ourselves our favorite front and center seats at the gorgeous Fredrick Meijer Gardens.
We are there to see Emmylou Harris. You see, I am a coal miner’s granddaughter and I was raised on bluegrass music. It is a warm summer evening in Michigan and a sunset cannot come to soon. But everyone is happy to be there and the music is about to begin.
When Emmylou comes on stage, everyone stands. A small part of me, as a math teacher, wonders what that feels like. But it is deserved. Her first song is amazing and everyone is silent. She has a confidence and really enjoys being on stage. At least she appears that way to everyone in the place.
The band joins her for the second song and the tune changes into an upbeat number. Everyone is tapping their feet.
It is at this point that the math teacher kicks in. I wonder why I can’t just enjoy the evening air and the sangria? But, I think of my students. If Emmylou played the same song over and over again… Do I do that to my kids? She and her band have instruments lined up, tools ready to be used, to engage the audience. The instruments change often, and the sound changes, she has the audience at the palm of her hand. Maybe I need to do that more in my classroom. Maybe we all do?
The tunes go from up beat to gospel to remembrance and sad. But, because of careful planning we are all in, and loving every minute. She won us over before sharing a story about her dad. And respect was earned before her song My Name is Emmett Till.
The whole band was happy to be on stage, and it showed! Are we always happy to be in class? And if not, can we still put on the performance?
At one point, Emmylou even pulled the drummer out front to sing. He was uncomfortable with one hand in his pocket and the other in his ear. And even though he would not have chosen to leave his loyal drums, you could tell he was happy for the opportunity to step out.
What can we learn as educators? Enjoy your students, they can feel it. Respect is earned. And once respect is earned, boundaries can be pushed (theirs and ours). Tools don’t have to be used, but what is lost? Kids don’t want to sit and listed to the same thing everyday as much as I would not like to listen to the same concert every night. There is something exciting about anticipation, change, surprises. How can I use that in my class. What tools do I need to perfect?
I want to engage my students. Emmylou certainly engaged her audience. I hope I am able to take these lessons to heart.