Trials Turn To Gold Inspiration by Joel Wagner - February 18, 2010June 30, 20100 Are you at the bottom of a pit? Maybe you’re in a place you never thought you would be. Or you never thought you’d be there again. I can’t count the number of times I’ve fallen into a bad habit in teaching. I allow myself to get bogged down with paperwork instead of taking care of it right away. Students ask me questions at the beginning of class and I forget the six magic words that liberate me: “I’m not answering questions right now.” Oh, you’ve done it too… Positive changes come and go like the wind most of the time. How do we stick it out and truly persevere? If you know the answer to this question, write a book and make millions. It seems everyone who thinks they might have a clue has already written a book about it. And the world continues setting goals and failing. The only key I have found has been simply diligence. The Free Dictionary defines diligence thusly: 1. Earnest and persistent application to an undertaking; steady effort; assiduity. 2. Attentive care; heedfulness. I prefer the simpler “discipline multiplied by time.” I think how to fail gracefully is one of the greatest lessons we can learn and more importantly as teachers, one of the greatest lessons we can transfer to our students. Along these lines, Keith Green wrote: He’s brought me here, where things are clear And trials turn to gold He shared with me, His victory He won in days of old Oh Lord, I don’t deserve The riches of your word But You’ve changed my filthy rags To linen white as snow The view from here is nothing near To what it is for You I tried to see Your plan for me But I only acted like I knew Oh Lord forgive the times I tried to read your mind Cause you said if I’d be still Then I would hear your voice My Lord, my King, my urge to sing And praise the things above No words can say the glorious way You changed me with your love He’s brought me low, so I could know The way to reach the heights To forsake my dreams, my self esteem And give up all my rights With each one that I lay down A jewel’s placed in my crown Cause His love, the things above Is all we’ll ever need He’s brought me here, where things are clear And trials turn to gold The thing that got me thinking along these lines was actually that I downloaded a recent TED Talk by Aimee Mullins entitled The opportunity of adversity. In it she says, “unless told otherwise…if left to their own devices, a child will achieve.” How powerful is that? How often do we take a child’s diagnosis and assume that means they are going to act or think a certain way? How often do we — consciously or unconsciously — reinforce those stereotypes? I’m sure I’m the only one who might possibly remotely come close to doing anything like that…or not! She concludes the talk: “I think that the only true disability is a crushed spirit. A spirit that’s been crushed doesn’t have hope, it doesn’t see beauty, it no longer has our natural childlike curiosity and our innate ability to imagine. If instead, we can bolster a human spirit to keep hope, to see beauty in themselves and others, to be curious and imaginative, then we are truly using our power well. When a spirit has those qualities, we are able to create new realities and new ways of being.” Here’s the entire video: Oh yeah, did I mention she had both of her legs amputated when she was one-year old? While we’re on the topic of TED Talks about adversity, you’ve got to watch this video of deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie explaining how to listen. Amazing stuff! Embrace the trial. Learn from the experience. Go for the gold! Joel WagnerJoel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.