Why don’t more adults sing, draw, paint and do art? Why do adults stop playing sports even though they enjoy doing so?
Probably it’s because we don’t think we’re good at these things. At some point in our lives we stop doing things, even things we enjoy, that we don’t think we’re good at. And it troubles me that this phenomenon begins to take hold in early adolescence — in middle school.
My daughter is 3 1/2, she loves to sing. She thinks she has a fantastic voice. You can listen to her singing one of the songs from Frozen, her favorite movie (of course, it’s every three to half-year-old’s favorite movie).
I hope she never stops singing. I hope she will always feel like she can sing in front of people. So many of us sing in the shower. I sing in the shower. Why? Because no one’s listening to us (and because the acoustics in the bathroom are awesome!) But I don’t often sing in front of people. Sometimes when I do, people tease me and say I should stick to my day job.
I don’t sing — because I’m self-conscious about it, I don’t think people will like it, I think people will tease me and talk about me behind my back, I think people might laugh at me. But I like to sing. When Juliet was a baby, I always sang to her. Our favorite song was Blue Skies.
Juliet sometimes asks me to sing it for her now.
Think about the Growth Mindset. The growth mindset philosophy says that we should do difficult things because we learn from them. If we subscribe to the Growth Mindset, we should continue to sing and do all the things we enjoy…even if we’re not good at them (because what’s “good” anyway [subject of next blog post?]).
I had an experience two years ago when I sang at a middle school concert. I was thinking about my experiences after Hurricane Sandy and how music affected me and helped me feel better about my circumstances. At that time, my brother Matthew took me and my wife in after we had to move out of our house because it was flooded. We had no power and it was getting cold. He lives a few towns over. At the concert, I talked about how this reminded me of the song, Lean on Me:
You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand; We all need somebody to lean on; I just might have a problem that you’ll understand; We all need somebody to lean on; Lean on me when you’re not strong; And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on; For it won’t be long; ‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
It’s perfect right? I heard this song when I was driving to Matt’s house and I had to pull over to the side of the road because it expressed so much of what I was feeling. I was actually crying.
Well, when I was giving my speech to introduce the concert, I couldn’t help myself. I had intended to read the lyrics but instead I asked the audience’s permission to sing it. And I did. Thankfully there’s no video of me singing but I won’t soon forget this evening.
I don’t have a good singing voice but I have to say I felt like it was a genuine growth experience for me to stand up there and sing. People applauded me, not because they enjoyed listening to me singing, I’m sure they didn’t, but because they recognized the courage it took to do it. That was two years ago but I still remember it. And the memory of that often helps me to summon the courage to do other difficult things, things I am not good at.
The Social Emotional Literacy monthly theme for October at our school is COURAGE. The growth mindset is all about Courage. What have you done that’s difficult? Have you ever done something that you knew was going to be hard but you did it anyway? These are the experiences that we put in our bank in order to grow and take on new challenges. Try it…