Many years ago I saw a powerful film called Mr Holland’s Opus . It was a moving portrait of the thirty year career of a high school music teacher whose passion for music influenced the lives of so many students. I think it ranks alongside Dead Poets Society.
What prompted me to think about Mr Holland’s Opus is a new Australian film called ‘Mrs Carey’s Concert’. It follows MLC Burwood music director Karen Carey as she prepares her students for a major concert. The film is receiving terrific reviews.
I heard Karen Carey and the film-maker, Bob Connolly talking recently about the impact of music on the human psyche and the influence of good teachers who are able to engender an appreciation and passion for music in their students.
Mrs Carey spoke about her ability to stretch students beyond what they believe they are capable of achieving. Combines content knowledge and experience with the resources available, Mrs Carey is able to design a curriculum relevant to each learner. And what better way to showcase quality learning and teaching than a concert at the Sydney Opera House. I’ll write more about instructional design in another post.
Learning is about challenging. We fail our learners when we set the benchmark too low. We send a message that aiming for average is OK and yet on TV, we see shows like Masterchef setting challenges for amateurs in order to produce extraordinary dishes. How many times do we hear judges telling contestants that they know the person is ‘capable of much more’.
It was interesting to read last week that a top a chef labelled a recent Masterchef challenge between his apprentice and a contestant ‘too hard’. Although the apprentice was working without a recipe and lost the challenge, he later admitted that he learnt from his mistakes and knew what was needed to improve.
Good teachers like Mrs Carey set challenges whether it is in a kitchen, concert hall or learning space in order to cultivate one’s ability to think creatively, to express themselves confidently and to embrace life-long learning.