Saturday, May 07, 2011


"Bluebird and Dogwood", oil, by Amy Hautman
This morning, working outside surrounded by the spring songs of birds, I decided to listen closely to them as I worked – sort of a special assignment for myself, you might say – and I soon started wondering why I don’t give myself similar assignments in my classroom. Just listening to students, for instance – just really focusing on the words they use to speak their surprising thoughts could be an absorbing project for a few hours. I would teach the lessons I had planned, yes, but at the same time I would be bent on bringing full awareness to what the students say and how they say it. I loved hearing the wide-ranging music of the birds this morning, and shouldn’t I love just as much the many ways teenagers use their voices to share their up-and-coming wisdom? I guess we don’t often think of conversation as music, but listening to my students’ voices falling and rising in a discussion in almost melodic ways sometimes reminds me of listening to a song. There are times, in fact, when I step back from the meanings of their words and just listen to the sounds of their voices – the sweet sounds of people placing their thoughts out front for others to see and be thankful for. This is music made for a morning’s or afternoon’s listening, an assignment I should give myself more often.

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