Today I went to teach songwriting at Barton Hills Elementary.
First class was 55 fifth graders, second class was 40 fourth grades, last class was 24 sixth graders. Zoom! I was off and running. The first two classes I taught were in the school cafeteria…I taught about Blind Contour Drawing, I taught about Cluster Writing, I taught about rhythm, rhyme, storytelling, how to create a “Living Drawing” (an exercise I’ve made up that is quite hilarious to do with anyone wanting to be more creative), the verse, the chorus, the hook, the bridge, etc…and we wrote songs!
There were kids who were eager to jump up in front of other kids and share their raps and poetry. There were kids who were terrified to share anything. I had special needs kids in the second group, and I invited (encouraged) them to join us in sharing their writings, too…Gosh! It was so beautiful…and each class is completely different…to find the groove of each class’s dynamics as quickly as possible is so important…I only have 45 minutes each class!
There is one little boy I would like to mentor. He is so bright, but I can tell he is beaten down. I can tell he just needs someone to say, “I believe in you.” It is apparent , within moments, which children have the support and love of family, and which children are being lost in the shuffle of life. Those are the kids I want to reach…although my hope is to leave each class motivated as individuals that they are worthy, whole, amazing children.
In the sixth grade class, I was able to introduce deeper concepts because of their age. Towards the end, after they had written their song, “The Swiss Cheese Vicious”, they asked me to sing one of my songs. One boy requested “Cantaloupe”, so I explained how it had come to be created, and then sang a fast paced version of it. Then I sang “Last Man In the Water.”
I have to tell you, I never been so humbled as when I looked around that classroom. Everyone was so intent on listening to what I was sharing. I was releasing each word from my mouth with as much love as I could muster…describing the crash of the plane, the fire around the people within, the sudden burst of freezing water…the lone man swimming to save complete strangers…my fingers were finding the chords and I was caressing my guitar one minute, the next pushing the chords to a louder support of the vocals above…
It felt like we were in the water together, this class and me.
As I reached the bridge of the song, I turned to look in the face of a girl to my right. Her eyes were full of tears, and my heart caught in my throat. I knew I was going to start crying, but I struggled on, thinking of William Arland, that I had to sing on as his voice, not my own.
After the song came to a close…there were questions, and I was glad to have them. I love the discussion part when children have questions to ask. I want them to know what this life has in store, I want them to feel free to ask “Why” and “How” and have dialogue with those of us who want to share
our own knowledge…but, most of all, I want them to believe in their own purpose. I want them to recognize that they can be who they already are…that what they have to offer up is unique and wondrous. I want my children to feel this way. I want all children to feel this way. I want to feel this way!
It makes me wonder if I should be a teacher. But I love having these opportunities, working with an assortment of different scenarios, being on the brink of the unknown everyday. I love that I get to sing and think and write and record and create and draw and LIVE. God, I want to live!
I will close with this quote that is on my desk:
“Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfullment.”
I am not afraid of death in the least. But I am wary of time running out…I want more time!!!!