Friday, March 18, 2016

A Real Teacher

One of the benefits of retirement is the ability to take advantage of all the city has to offer and this week I did just that at the Lincoln Center Library for Performing Arts.

Wednesday afternoons, three wonderful opera singers perform in front of an audience and art song master Paul Sperry in the program Joy In Singing. The audience is not only treated to a fantastic afternoon of music but have first hand experience watching a coach bring out the best of voices that are already outstanding.

I am not an opera fan and wasn't even sure I would enjoy this performance but in my quest to experience it all, I gave it a shot and was not disappointed.  I loved the music but I also loved watching the teacher at work.  He did, what all great teachers do.  He praised all the performers, emphasizing their strengths.  And, when he found areas that needed correction, he explained what he wanted without putting down what they had done and demonstrated exactly what he wanted.  He never lost patience with one singer who didn't understand his corrections and worked with her until she got it.

As I watched the evaluation process I thought about teacher evaluations done by assistant principals and principals today.  Mr. Sperry is a master of his craft.  Those evaluating teachers are not masters and many can barely teach, having failed licensing exams and only being in the classroom a very short time. Mr. Sperry knew what he wanted and knew how to demonstrate this.  He was able to bring out the best.  Today's administrators only offer criticism, never ways to correct.  He knew how to do all this without shame and humiliation and every performer who left the stage left feeling good about themselves.  I don't think most teachers would say this after a post evaluation conference.

Every young performer at Joy in Singing learned something and will be better because of this experience.  This is what school administrators have to be able to do for teachers if they truly want the best for their students.

(Picture is sunset in Austin, Texas)

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