Tumultuous Times

We in New Zealand live in tumultuous times. The Christchurch earthquake –well, in reality the Canterbury earthquake, with the costs still to be counted in terms of both money and human loss. Unless you live there, it must be difficult to imagine what this can have been like – to feel the earth suddenly shudder under your feet and wonder if this is “the big one” that will destroy you and/or your loved ones…Will Christchurch survive? Only time will tell.

On another level we have had the England riots – the “misunderstood” youth attempting to show that they “can do anything they want”. Which other countries in the world will follow this example? New Zealand is not that far away from such an event. We have pandered to the young people of this world to such an extent that leading a life on a benefit is seen as a cool thing to do. Imagine not having to work for a living! The attitude among a significant part of our society appears to be “Leave work to those that can pay for us to live on handouts…” What will happen when those that do pay suddenly begin to realise what is happening?

Yesterday I fought my way through the Auckland traffic to Newmarket to see the film “Mrs Carey’s Concert”. I almost turned back  – as the traffic was so bad. However once inside the theatre I sat back to be completely overwhelmed by this film. Hardly a cinematic experience, however it laid open so many aspects of trying to teach in the classroom today. It brought back so many things about why I loved teaching, but also why I left.

This film is about the preparations for a concert which happens every two years, given in the Sydney Opera House by all the members of one school. I ended up with tears of both sadness and joy – even sometimes almost at the same time. What do I remember most? I remember the way in which all the students grew through the experiences they had – even the rebellious student. This was no slick film showing everything in rose-coloured glasses. This was a film showing a team of dedicated teachers, PROVING that their students could go beyond what they and everybody else thought they could do in the aim for perfection. But the scene where Mrs Carey was rebuked quietly when she quite lightly spanked a student on the knee – what PC nonsense is this!!!?? This was virtually an affectionate slap. This was a film about a teacher determined to make her students grow.

I don’t apologise to anybody for the way in which I managed to persuade people into producing so much more than they thought they were able to produce when I was teaching. I fought for musical perfection for many years. So many of these ex-students have become so much…“more”…because of the department where I worked for most of my teaching life, in tandem with David Hamilton (with whom I shared so much in teaching philosophy). Some of our students were also  “at risk” students, who managed to realise their own worth and value, partly because of what we were able to help them to achieve. As Mrs Carey said in her film, “I was not rude, I was firm…!”  Oh yes I loved that line!!! I can imagine the fallout over that at the schools where I taught. Would I get away with it in New Zealand now ? I doubt it. I would be told that I needed to pander to the students and their SPOILT PARENTS!

We in New Zealand are breeding a generation of students, who do not know what it means to fail and do not know how to cope when they fail in society and because of this we can expect many more tumultuous times!

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About David Adlam

I am a conductor, composer, clarinettist and examiner for Trinity Guildhall working in Auckland, New Zealand and overseas
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