Saturday, July 06, 2013

63 seasons...

 I went to Opera in the Ozarks last night for a performance of The Elixir of Love, a silly opera, but one that was flawlessly and delightfully performed. This is the 63rd season of the Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point. It is an opera camp that offers performance opportunities to young singers and musicians, and for those of us who live in Eureka Springs, Opera in the Ozarks presents a unique cultural opportunity.

Last night's performance was a reminder for me that many good things take the same kind of intense learning. For instance, to become a teacher of Sloyd would require that one not only be prepared by instruction and lessons to teach, but also requires that one invest  time independent of instruction to hone skills enough to stand in from of a classroom to demonstrate skilled woodworking without making a fool of oneself.

The object of all teaching should be to lead students, too, to the point at which they purposefully and willingly invest time in individual exploration and refinement of skill. Just as an opera student will spend hours each day refining the precision, and range and efficiency of voice, students in all fields should be inspired to invest of themselves in something they then would have the capacity to offer to others as did the performers last night.

Instead we have cursory education. Students are expected to have broad knowledge (and we test to see that they do) and no skill. Teachers are expected to deliver information and hold students accountable to standards of behavior and knowledge retention, but not to model the development of skill or independent thought.

There is a really dumb and hurtful thing that some folks have said... "That those who can do and those who can't, teach." I'ts a blanket generalization that may be true for some teachers under the failed circumstances in which we expect them to teach. We've demoralized the profession. We've failed to note that teachers, like all other human beings, thrive in working conditions that nourish and celebrate the expression and demonstration of skill. Last night's opera was a joyful expression and demonstration of skill acquired through countless hours of independent work, and brought together  in delightful performance.

For me, writing in this blog is my opportunity to do what a young opera student will do. I work on the precision, range, and efficiency of my voice. The song here is about ennobling the teaching profession as I attempt to offer a new/old course for education. Who in their right mind would suspect that a system of manual arts training from the 19th Century could offer anything at all to our discourse about improving education? The simple principles of Educational Sloyd, that I've repeated so many times, apply not only to teaching woodworking but in the teaching of all other things. We learn best and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on or by doing real things. Today, I offer opera as an example.

Make, fix and create...


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I've always hated the "those who can't, teach" commentary. In my experience I've found that the individuals who fall into the 'those who can't' category last only a very short time in the teaching profession. They lack the skills and, more importantly, the passion and commitment required to be a teacher. I read recently that in the U.S. last year college teacher training departments graduated more than 250,000 new teachers but only 93,000 of them had jobs teaching in the fall. I believe the very beginning of the teacher training process is flawed when teacher colleges stress quantity rather than quality.
DaveK