I love all the “On Demand” commercials we see on TV these days.
We are a society where everything is “on demand”. You can order, receive, and expect almost anything you want to be delivered at any time. We truly are a 24/7 culture. But when it comes to writing lesson plans, “on demand” is not the best idea.
I had the privilege recently to be asked to write some lessons for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. They produce and perform mid-week concerts for school children during the year and provide teachers across the state of Maryland with lesson plans that are specifically designed for preparing the students for these performances. It is a truly wonderful endeavor and such a great way to provide a live musical experience to many children that otherwise may not see or hear one. My job is to write the music lessons for some of these performances and coach other teachers in writing the arts integration lessons for two musical pieces.
Now, I love this program.
I wholeheartedly believe in the concept and the execution of this wonderful opportunity. Yet, these musical pieces were sitting untouched on my desk for a month. I just kept shuffling them around. Every time I would think about writing the lessons, I would heave a big sigh and think of something else that needed to be done. Clean up my desk drawers. File some papers. Grab a cup of coffee. Anything.
I couldn’t figure out why I was apathetic to writing these lessons.
This just wasn’t like me. But as I kept pushing the file aside, I started to realize why I didn’t want to start or write these particular lessons – the ideas weren’t flowing. Normally, I listen to a piece of music or look at objectives I want to cover and the ideas just start to flood my mind. Not on these. On these, I had a deadline. I was writing “on demand” and it was NOT productive.
The problem with ignoring something, of course, is that it just sits there in your mind like some ugly green monster, getting bigger with every passing moment. I was becoming so stressed that I couldn’t concentrate on regular daily tasks. Finally, I got to the point where I just opened up my folder and told myself to just listen. Put the CD in the player and LISTEN to the music. Forget when it’s due, and forget that it’s for a major symphony orchestra. Forget that I was expected to produce a high-quality lesson. Just listen.
When I finally gave myself the freedom to enjoy the music that was being played, the ideas started to come flooding in, just like they always do. I had so many that I had to write them down and try to sort out something that was cohesive. Once I allowed myself to just enjoy the process and see what came of it, I was able to write those lessons in 30 minutes. Amazing.
Maybe, we should all learn from this.
Rather than continually building up all the pressure and feeding into our “need it right now” culture, we should just take a breath and enjoy the moment. Provide ourselves with the freedom to accept, enjoy and play. That’s when our best qualities really shine through anyway – we know that as educators. How many of our students crack under the pressure of “on demand” testing? We provide our students with grace; perhaps we should do the same for ourselves.
Besides – “on demand” always costs us more in the end. I suggest we all give the rent-at-your-own pace a try instead.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.