I don’t like to be cranky. I mostly pretend to be cranky in classes, usually. Every so often I really am cranky, but most of the time, I amuse myself by pulling a few faces and getting a little bit snarly if I need to. Really, if the truth be known, I love the kids I teach so much, and admire them so enormously for just getting to school and smiling their way through the day, that being a bit wriggly in a music lesson doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other. I just work a bit harder to get them to engage.
But something happened last week that really did make me cranky. It wasn’t from a child in a class. It wasn’t from a teacher I work with. It was by someone who should know better.
I am in a school where I have two huge choir groups – one of 90 at a time, and one of 150. When I have told other music teachers about this they look at me with eyebrows raised. I don’t have a pianist with me (I can’t – there’s no piano at the school), I don’t have a microphone. I do have teachers there helping me with crowd control (some more that others) – but actually, I don’t need anything else. The kids are all engaged (apart from about two. I haven’t been able to win them over. Not yet.) and I actually have a really good time. There are jokes, and laughing, and me doing little dances, and blowing kisses to kids doing a fabulous job, and lots and lots of singing. And lots of smiling.
Lots of engagement. Lots of joy. Lots of fun. And huge, huge groups of kids.
Now, I know my teaching methods are… well, not normal. I think of the teachers that I admired at school, and university. Their teaching methods weren’t conventional either. But I remember the joy of learning from them. And I like to think I do this for the children I see. They laugh with me. They laugh at me. The older ones call me ‘Rach’. At no point do I think they disrespect me, or what I do.
I also have lots of banter going with another teacher. I adore this teacher. He’s like the brother I never had. I re-write songs poking fun at him. He gets his class to write songs poking fun at me. We are a double-act on the day I’m in there. We greet each other with a hug in front of all the kids at the school. They see how much we respect each other, even though we tease one another. And these kids are learning how it is possible to laugh and joke with someone, but not step over the line, and not be cruel. And also how to laugh at yourself. And do you know – not one of the kids we see tries to do it once they leave music.
This person-who-should-know-better came to see these huge choirs. He saw the engagement. He saw the smiling. He saw the joy. And he saw the banter. And then he questioned it. But not to my face.
The carpet was totally pulled out from under my feet. I was angry. I’m not anymore. There’s no point. I won’t get an apology. But I was cranky. Really cranky. My brother-from-another-mother acted as I knew he would, and was horrified on my behalf and had my back. But I may have said some words I can’t type. And stomped around the house a bit. And kicked some furniture.