Friday, February 8, 2008

Er, Hello, Ms Chipps

The music teacher from my daughter's school was recently featured on a television program about 'inspiring' teachers. Just as any discussion about what motivates adults to achieve or to behave in a certain way must acknowledge that one person's carrot may well be another's broccoli, I think we need to admit that while some kids may find bluff paternalism reassuring others might consider it bullying!

My daughter, for example, did not find the remark 'Of course you want to join the choir, here, I'll carry your bag for you' uttered whilst simultaneously comandeering her backpack and taking it to a place of choral practice so much inspiring as like being press-ganged! She felt her protest that she did NOT in fact want to join the school choir were somehow not being taken seriously.

In relating this incident to me my daughter told me she submitted to the practice session and was still making up her mind whether to attend more. If she does she will make it clear to Ms Chipps that she was recruited under duress! That they can possess her lungs and vocal chords for an hour a week but they cannot have her spirit!

As a proud parent (and one who has heard the school choir perform on various occasions), I can not help but believe that Ms Chipps was desperate to recruit a trained (and rather lovely) voice to their ranks. If my daughter's imitation of the breathy, mumbling technique employed by her peers was accurate there is no doubt that her inclusion will be an asset!

But how much better if Ms Chipps had enquired into my daughter's reason for not wanting to join - an 8 am start the day after her evening practice with her other, extra curricular, serious choir! (And, dare I hope it? perhaps a burgeonng sense that homework needs to be squeezed in somewhere). And how much better if she'd leveled with my girl and said 'Actually we need voices like yours!'

I think she'll stay. They're moving school choir practice to a lunch time and I think she's chuffed that her voice is clearly improving their overall sound. Ms Chipps could have put her recruitment on a rather more inspirational footing if she'd framed it as talent spotting rather than coercing.


Glenda Sladen said...

Dear Alice

Thank you very much for your comment. It is inspiring. Why?

Because so often (perhaps when under stress and time constraints?) our
behaviour reverts to our "real self" style.

In the case of the teacher, it is possibly a bossy-blustery style. This
can actually be lots of fun.

But we need to be aware of how our "real self" style can be a little
unpleasant in certain situations. Most of us change our "real self"
style if it doesn't fit the situation, but we may start slipping back
into old ways - because of indifference, stress, whatever.

Alice gives a good reminder about how Ms Chipps (and all of us) needs to
modify her behaviour and bring out her "real self" at the RIGHT time.

Friend of Alice

Alice said...

Good observation, friend of mine. It's a bit like situational leadership theory applied to teaching. My daughter auditioned for the school musical under Ms Chipps' discerning eye this week, watch for an posting on teh outcome!