We're thrilled this week to be able to share this post from our Choir Director, Joy Paffenroth. Joy is a choir teacher at Kaukauna High School who has been wading through the challenges of launching school for the 2020 school year. Here is a post she shared to her Facebook page a couple days after school started. We are sharing this here with her permission.
It’s been a LONG week. Although I am THRILLED to see my students again, the new reality of teaching is something like I’ve never experienced before. There are so many layers...so. many. I’m not going to lie...I’ve been letting my mind wander to other career paths. Legit. Seriously.
Today was our first “real” day of the year. No special schedules. Cohort B in person and some virtual students google meeting in while other virtual students did an asynchronous activity. (It’s a lot to manage...) 70 minutes in each class period. 4 classes. 1 prep time.
The in person activity today was a deep dive into the story that’s posted below at the end of this post. I did the same activity in all 4 classes...each with different tangents that emerged from the story thanks to open ended questions to the students. The crux of the activity was for students to reflect on 3 main ideas...what is your song? Who knows your song? Whose song do you know and how do you gently care for and safe guard that responsibility? The conversations were INCREDIBLE in every class...honestly, they were. A theme that emerged was that your song centers you and reminds you of who you really are when you need to remember it most.
"What is your song? Who knows your song? Whose song do you know and how do you gently care for and safe guard that responsibility?"
Between classes, I let my mind wander again to the difficult task at hand of teaching in this environment...is it sustainable for me mentally and emotionally? Am I really able to “be me” when teaching like this? Etc etc...
Then, after school a sophomore stopped in to chat and left me with a letter she wrote to me last night. I opened it after she left and the tears simply flowed. She so openly and honestly shared the impact I’ve had on her life...it was A LOT and I honestly had no idea. Not a single clue. I was just doing my job last year, being her choir teacher.
And then I realized, on the day I was sharing this story and discussion with my class, she was actually reminding me of my song...reminding me of my center and reminding of who I am and what I’m meant to do. Well played, universe, well played.
To all the teachers out there...you’re doing a good job. You are needed exactly where you are...even when you don’t feel like it.
Here’s the story I shared with my classes today for discussion-
When a woman in certain African tribes knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child's song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child's song. When the child passes through the initiation into adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.
Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person's bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn't. You may feel a little warble at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you'll find your way home.