Archive for April, 2019

Comment: A little success can go a long way.

April 7, 2019

Achieving a little success, no matter how small, makes one feel good and encourages us to maintain our interest.  Recently I gave a presentation at a teachers’ conference. I was not holding out much hope that many people would attend and I offered to do it just to keep my hand in and to keep in touch. I decided to draught a mere skeleton of a plan and just be myself, warts and all. To my delight, the room was packed and a couple of people made a point of thanking me profusely for giving them some useful ideas to try in the classroom. This gave me new hope, and I am moved offer to give another presentation next year.

However, it is so easy to take this at face value. This was just one small moment of success which is tiny when compared to the whole scheme of things. There are too many people who have enjoyed a little success like this and have let it go to their heads. Their words are littered with self-praise and there is nothing worse. It will more than likely put us off the person for life. My little effort, I realize, was full of errors. I have many criticisms I can make about my presentation and these I will endeavour to address next time, if I my application is accepted. I realize that most people are kind and sympathetic and thus let my errors go by without a fuss.

The praise I received, however, was enough to remind me how rewarding it is and how I should give much more positive feedback to the students I teach. There is nothing more gratifying than the smile on the face of a student who has succeeded. Again, it may be one small step, for example, simply remembering some vocabulary from a previous English Lesson, but no matter how insignificant it is, success should be congratulated as such.

False praise, on the other hand, achieves little. Both you and the receiver of the erroneous praise know it is false. We all know how even the youngest of children are not stupid and can often see through falsehood. When trying to apply reverse psychology to a four-year -old once, it failed miserably. Telling her she couldn’t do something in the hope that she would rise up and prove she could, failed. She let it be known in no uncertain terms she was not to be manipulated like that.

It seems clear to me that we should praise other people more and ourselves less.



Comment: The value of music should never be underestimated.

April 2, 2019

Throughout the centuries, music has been an important part of people’s lives. There are few of us who would declare that it is completely unimportant and unnecessary.  Scores of research cases have indicated that music has an important influence on the way we think and feel, yet it is usually at the bottom of our list of priorities, be it a school curriculum or our own everyday lives.

An incident recently brought it home to me how effective music can be when all other means of communication fail. I run a weekly ‘choir practice’ for the residents in my husband’s care home. I ask that he attends even though he has long lost the power of speech. I knew, and know, that he has always liked music. As the weeks passed, I introduced new songs for us all to sing. I often try to communicate with my husband but it is usually not successful. I am not even sure he knows who I am anymore for he has suffered from dementia for over 20 years.

Then one week I decided to assume that I would get through to him. I went up close to him and stood so that he could see and hear me clearly and I sang with the residents, song after song. It was not long before his eyes met mine and they focused so that I knew he knew who I was. He grinned to show that he was really enjoying the music. Not only that, his facial expression changed to show that he was reacting emotionally to the event and to the music in a positive way. To me, this is proof indeed that music is one of the most powerful communicators.

Music has always been important in my life. As a child of non-musical parents it seemed a fluke that I was even interested. Fortunately I was allowed to follow my interest and even make it a career, even though many people thought that there is no future in it. In my case, I turned to teaching and although it had its moments, it certainly gave me a career, and helped to pay a mortgage and bring up a young family.

From personal experience I can testify that as a child learning the piano it not only gave me an outlet for my music, it taught me discipline (when I had to get up at 630 every morning to get my practice in before school), it gave me focus when I had to remember the notes, the fingering and the musical form of the pieces I played while it also gave me a very powerful means of expression to alleviate the teenage angst that I suffered as most people do. It taught me develop stamina and to relax for these are important parts of the technique. Finally, the concerts, performances and choirs I have been involved with provided a social life I would otherwise never have experienced.

So the next time you think music may be a waste of time, I urge you to think again.