Sometimes we get opportunities to step back and assess. This past week I had an opportunity.
My wife, Helen, and I attended our youngest’s graduation. Theo has been attending the University of Redlands. And within that school is the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. This program is a 50-year-old experiment in collaboration and education.
Theo has worked with a small team of professors and students to chart out and execute his choices in courses, often relying on research papers and projects as an alternative to tests and exams. By every measure, his college experience has been a success.
In addition to my personal curiosity about what Theo’s life has been like for these past 4 years, I felt like an ambassador for the parents I work with back at home. Tell me the ideas that you want my students and their parents to know. What can I bring back to my people?
I peppered Theo and his friends with questions about their experiences in school. What worked. What failed. What was meaningful. What they most valued.
The most important ingredient for success that I kept hearing from students and professors is collaborative community. Students, teachers and administrative faculty worked together to shape unique educations that fit the intentions and interests of students.
How does this impact violin lessons of pint-sized 5-year-olds or restless 15-year-olds?
For teachers, it reinforces the importance of a community-based educational environment. One where students, parents and teachers can frequently interact, talk and play music. It is important not just for the inherent joy of relationships, but also for the cross-pollination that happens with people of similar interests.
We must continually check in with our students about their interests, joys and activities and connect them to what we are teaching.
For parents, it is a reminder to be involved in your child’s education. You are the spokesperson for your 5-year-old. You’ll gradually transform into an advocate and cheerleader as they grow older.
Ask your teacher for songs that you know your young child loves. Insist on help when you are struggling with motivation or practice at home. Invite other families to your home for dinner, conversation and music. Be with your child at their lessons when you are able.
Last, but not least, use music lessons as a practice run for advocating and supporting your child’s larger educational experience at school.