February 25, 2006
If You Want To Sing, Sing Out.
Being a teacher is very similar to being a performer. Day in and day out, we stand in front of a room and try to entertain, motivate and inspire you. Our students. We try and show you that it is vital that you become bigger than you are, be better than you think you can be. We try and show you that the world is for you to enjoy and that dreams need not be only fantasies. But what you do not know is that as we slave and pour our hearts out everyday, you equally inspire us. Your enthusiasm, your creativity and your innocence is enough inspiration to keep us going for a lifetime.
This reminds me of a particular experience I had last year. I was sitting where you are now, in this same theater watching a variety show. One of my fifth grade students, who was learning English, was sitting in front of a huge piano and sang a song she had written herself. Her delicate voice faltered between timidity and valiancy. I was floored by her performance. It has always been my dream to play music in front of an audience, but fear, embarrassment and insecurity have always held me back. Last year, Anna made me realize that my life is too short to be crippled by my own lack of faith in my talent. She inspired me to take a chance and make my dream come true. So, as you can see, you are crucial in keeping this inspiration circle going. I am here tonight to let you know that even adults are afraid. We don’t have all the answers; actually we have far fewer than you would think. We are figuring it all out with you. But what is important for all of us to remember is to never let this fear stop us from achieving what we know we are meant to accomplish.
The last couple of weeks, we have been working on poetry in my class, and I have made my students stand on chairs as they read sonnets and other poems. I say that I want them to feel as if they own the room and be brave. Well, you guys, I have always told you that I don’t expect you to do anything I would not do myself, so this is me, standing on the chair and reading my sonnet.
This may not be exactly what I said, but it is what I had planned to say before my nerves swallowed me whole. I am standing on a stage in the theater of my school in front of over four hundred students, parents and other teachers. The strong spotlight blinds me and envelopes the audience in darkness. I can hear my words echo through the microphone and the back wall, but I am not certain where they are coming from. They sound good. I continue. All week I have been worried that I would blank out, but this is it. My speech is over. The clapping has stopped. It is time to begin. I strum a few G chords. Remember start slowly. I am off…come gather round people…wherever you roam…wrong chord…keep going they won’t notice…hit this chorus with some emotion. Don’t be so mechanical…loosen up…there it is. YES, nice one…come mothers and fathers through out the land….don’t criticize what you can’t understand…your sons and your daughters we’re beyond your command…get out of the road if you can’t led a hand…nice belt that one out…is that feedback…keep going, you’re in a groove. You are no longer even looking at your fingers…I look around, but all I see is the darkness…I hear some screams…I hear my voice…it sounds okay...I am on fire, but there is no pain…this will end soon…Why can’t it go on forever…I forget the last line…strum the G, strum the G…there it is…the first one now will later be last.
I have always thought that I wanted to be onstage, because I have an ego that is a bit self-obsessed. Sure, I meditate and read books about trying to diffuse it, but my ego needs affection. It needs to be told that it is understood. It likes to be reassured that it is unique, that people love it. But as I stood on that stage, I felt it disappear. I was not singing to those people because I wanted anything from them- no acceptance, no reassurance, no applause. I was on that stage giving everything inside of myself so that I would no longer exists. And for the four minutes I stood onstage and sang my song, as the blackness filled with hundreds of faces staring out at me, I felt completely alive. I am no longer alone, because I feel that I have finally connected. I cannot say specifically to what, but it is out there in the darkness- cheering and clapping. I smile, raise my hand, wave and walk off the stage.
Note: All proceeds of this event will go to help hurricane victims in New Orleans. A DVD will soon be made, and depending on my technological expertise, I will try and post some clips on Intrepid Flame.