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"You can get more flies with honey than you can with vinegar"
 
            Twenty or so years ago I was the clinician at an MENC (Music Educators National Conference) convention in Reno, Nevada.  I was especially excited because my friend Laura Lorentzen, an awesome choral director, was attending my workshop on Choral Rehearsal Techniques.  The workshop was going smoothly and everybody was having a great time.  I'm funny (my mom always taught me "you can get more flies with honey than you can with vinegar") and so, during the workshop, we laughed often.
 
            About half way through the session, I was ready to move on to another bullet point and there were a few folks, including my friend Laura, in the back talking to each other.  I waited for a moment expecting them to come back to the group discussion.  They kept talking and so, in a moment I will never forget, I spoke Laura's name in front of everyone and said something "teacher-ish" to get her to stop talking.  She looked at me with a face full of hurt and embarrassment.  I was caught off guard for a moment because the look on her face didn't match what I had said... or so I thought....
 
            I tried to smooth things over by saying something awkwardly funny. It didn't help at all.  So, I moved on, all the while feeling sick to my stomach (for real).  I tried to catch Laura's eyes during the rest of the presentation but she avoided looking at me.
 
        After the workshop was over and I had spoken to the folks who wanted to chat about what we had discussed, I worked my way over to Laura.  I gushed all over myself telling her how sorry I was that I had embarrassed her in front of everyone.  This is what she said to me: "For the first time in all the rehearsals and classes I've been with you as the teacher/director, I felt unsafe.  I know it's silly in my head because you didn't mean to embarrass me but I realized how my students feel when I call their names out in front of everyone."  It sounds all dramatic but we sat there together, just the two of us, crying.   We realized how important it is for everyone to feel safe in our rehearsals/classes.  We also realized that age didn't matter.  Everyone we stand in front of should feel safe while we use their time.
 
            To this day, I am over the top aware of people feeling safe in my rehearsal/class.  I have worked very hard on my classroom management skills so I don't often have to deal with funky behavior in rehearsal/class, regardless of the age I'm standing in front of.  When those rare occasions occur, I use my Tool Kit of ways to work through the situation (more blog posts coming about that Tool Kit) so that the person/people disrupting the flow maintains dignity while I help them come back to our rehearsal/class party.

 

Part 1 of 2 blog series, this series is written by Merrilee Webb who is a college director and has traveled the country performing. Please comment what you think about the post and leave your feedback.


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