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Starfish and Fire

Posted on 2011.07.21 at 14:33
Current Music: 月明かり ~Rie Fu
Tags: , , , ,
Many people know the story of the boy throwing starfish back into the ocean and the old man asking why as there was no possible way he could save all of them. The boy looks at the starfish and throws it back and tells the old man, "It mattered to that one."

This story has been used a lot in education. I believe in touching as many lives as possible, but that what matters is the individual lives not the quantity of them. Today I realized the other piece of that. In education, we succeed in saving our starfish only when they realize the fire and passion to live and learn has been inside themselves all along; when they realize that all we do is give direction but it is the individual starfish that creates his/her own success. This is the true goal of education; to throw the starfish back into the sea, not to save them but so they can save themselves.

I had a meeting today regarding a situation about which I am concerned. What I didn't realize was I wasn't fully cognizant of why it bothered me. Was it just not wanting to see my work with students go unfinished? Was it the specific music selections? Was it the lack of pushing students? Was it the slow pace? No, because those are all relatively easy to fix. This is what I said:

You know, in listening for music to specifically to suggest to her I think I figured out what it is that bothers me. In the 8th/9th grade is when I was REALLY pulled into orchestra by MJ. It was the piece of music, Russian Easter Festival Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov. (We did an arrangement in the 8th grade and the original in the 9th) I fell in love with orchestra music because of that piece--it was the first piece I was REALLY able to get into; I could feel my heart beating faster and the excitement--I was part of actually creating something other than just contributing correct notes/rhythm/tone/etc. My kids are ready for that and need that. I think specifically of my 8th graders from last year...there is so much intensity and passion and I want them to have the same experience I did going into high school because I know them and I know what will happen if they do.

The fire is inside them already, but they haven't fully accessed it. When they first start, their skills aren't developed enough to really ignite, but now they have the minimum skills to kindle that fire. The fire is in them, but they still need the spark of inspiration to realize it.

I'm not willing to let the fire die in even a handful of my students. My teacher could have easily let me, a quiet reserved violinist without the same background and experiences as my peers, fall through the cracks. Instead she threw me back into the sea and the fire ignited. I don't think I could forgive myself or keep teaching if I let them stay beached on the shore because "it mattered to me."

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