Tuesday, May 21, 2013


"French Horn", oil, by Jia Tian Shi
This morning, just before school, I listened to several movements of a Mozart wind quintet, and the perfectly beautiful French horn solos started me thinking about the art of teaching. Here was this outsized, cumbersome instrument, one that is usually kept in the background of classical pieces, playing lovely melodies by itself, and playing them in an enthralling manner. As I listened, I thought of certain of my students, the ones who stay on the outskirts of discussions and seem to be only marginal members of the class. I wondered whether these reserved students had "music" inside them that I was missing -- whether they could perhaps “solo” as skillfully as this French horn. What this led me to was the realization, for the thousandth time, that all of my students have a secret, special brilliance, and it is my duty to draw it out. The quiet ones may not be able or willing to solo like the French horn, but at least I can let them know that I appreciate the irreplaceable loveliness they are able to lend to the class. In order to do this, though, I have to be truly attentive to them, and to listen carefully to their fleeting but beautiful thoughts. Like the French horn in the Mozart piece, these timid, retiring students have singular music to share.

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