When the conductor enters the stage, there is rousing applause.
As a teacher, I have never been afforded such an honor. The closest I’ve come is to walk into a room full of students who suddenly cease talking upon noticing me or engage in a rousing chorus of disparate requests.
Yet, I am a conductor. I am a conductor of ideas in a symphony.
The word symphony has two meanings. The first is the orchestra.
There is the ‘classical’ instrumentation: violins, violas, cellos, woodwinds in pairs, horns, timpani, but even within the classical era, it changed. In fact, the purpose of the symphony orchestra was to be able to create any sound. Over the centuries, dozens of instruments have been added as permanent members, some just for special effects, some to fulfill some kind of creative, if not sometimes bizarre, vision. It’s just like a classroom.
My classroom is my orchestra, prepared to suit the creative, if not sometimes bizarre, learning needs of anyone who happens by. The traditional classroom had chairs, like mine, and books as well. But mine has an interactive whiteboard and wikipedia.
The other definition of symphony refers to the form. Again, there is a traditional form. Not to be too specific, there are movements in related key centers. Each movement follows a dance form, tempo, and rhythm. If you’re curious, listen to as much Haydn as possible, and notice the similarities between his symphonies because he’s the source from which scholars derived the notion of the classical symphonic form.
Although not known for my frilly neckwear, I do kind of look like Maestro Haydn.
Thankfully, composers have ravaged the classical symphonic form mercilessly. From Sibelius’ Symphony No.7 in one movement to Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony in ten, and beyond, the form has always been at the command of creativity and the musical expression of the times. The analogy can be applied to learning. What children learn now may only slightly resemble what they might have learned in the eighteenth century, because it is the purpose of the classroom to prepare students for life in their time.
The creativity of each student individually and in collaboration with each other determines the form, ensemble, and ultimately, the performance. Every child is unique. Every path to understanding is unique. Every idea is unique.
The students are the orchestra. I am their conductor. Our ideas are our symphony.