I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions. For some people they work, but for me, they just fade away-like last year's resolution: to put away my laundry as soon as it is done so my bedroom doesn't look like a clothes tornado. Well on the last day of 2016, my bedroom looks like about four clothes tornados swept through. That being said, I did mention to my husband last night that we need a re-do on that resolution, so I guess I take back what I said about resolutions.
The year 2016 is certainly going down in the books as quite the year. I think that most people can agree that our world has been shaken, and for those of us "younger" folks, this is something that we haven't experienced before. I keep hearing about how 2016 is remincent of the 1960's (Make America Great Again??). If you haven't, I am implore you to watch the Netflix documentary, "13th" (see link for a YouTube preview). This documentary pretty much rocked my world in every direction and I hope that this will become publicly available so that high schools and higher education institutions can use this as part of their civics curriculum.
Professionally this year has rocked. I am in my second year of the best job I could have ever imagined. I am challenged every day to be a better person, a better teacher and a better listener (I'll get to that in a moment). Prof/Personally, this year was pretty amazing as well. I presented at a slew of conferences (in the spring, took the fall off), passed my doctoral comprehensive exams and am now working on my doctoral dissertation proposal, which I am actually enjoying (most of the time). I still get to make fabulous music with my saxophone quartet. There are lots of other neat things that happened this year, but I am not going to talk about them now.
A majority of my research is going to be listening to indiviudal's stories and their experiences about being gay or lesbian and being music educators. I must be an active listener, an empathetic listener, a kind listener, and above all, I must not insert myself into their stories. How often do we do this? Full confessional right now: I know that I am incredibly guilty of half-assed listening to someone, only to be triggered by a memory and then insert my experience into their story. How rude of me is that?! This is something that I have been working on and struggle to overcome, but I hope that I am getting better at this.
Listening. I have wondered in what ways have we truly lost the art of listening with intention. Listening with empathy. Listening with kindness. I have a dear friend, Josh Palkki, who is a brilliant researcher, a kind human being and just an all-around fantastic dude. I look at his dissertation every.single.day as a reference point but also for inspiration. His research on trans students' experiences in choral ensembles is phenomenal, but the point in his work that really jumped out to me was the importance of listening. Listening without judgment-something I think the whole world needs to consider.
I hate watching presidential debates. Everything is a knee-jerk reaction. There is no listening involved. This year it got especially nasty (like what I did there? Click on the link for a pic!). However, this made me realize how important it is to listen. I work with students, strike that, we as educators work with students with backgrounds we cannot possibly begin to understand. Our students come to us with stories and experiences that they need to share, but who is listening? Who is caring? Sometimes the counselor and social worker just isn't enough. Sometimes we need to listen, without judgment, about their fears-why they can't make it to first hour on time, why they cannot make the concert, why they are smoking pot before coming to school. It is not our place to judge these students for the lives that they live, but it is our place to listen.
It goes without saying that the forthcoming months will be interesting. The months will lead into years. But if we can stop for a moment and listen....with intention, with empathy, with kindness and without judgmenet, and consider how we might be able to learn from each other, the months and years might become more bearable.
This isn't my New Year's Resolution, this is my life resolution. To listen. I wanted to insert some fancy quote in here about listening, but I couldn't really find anything that really spoke to me, so if you know of one, please leave it below in the comments.
Thank you for reading this and listening to me. I look forward to listening to you in the future.