Teach MAM: An Exciting Partnership to Strengthen Arts Education Across Louisiana
Mickey Smith Jr. Teach MAM Ambassador
As Winston Churchill was working to form the United Nations after World War II, he once famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Churchill had a fantastic ability to see a crisis as something that could be “good.” He saw an opportunity where others couldn’t or simply chose not to. As the band director of Maplewood Middle School in Sulphur, LA, I often tell my students that their perspective is powerful and that opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, and every opportunity is just that….an opportunity! We must stay vigilant and aware because every opportunity can be another opportunity for another opportunity! As we prepare for this school year, Louisiana schools find themselves amid a global crisis called COVID-19. Parents, students, administrators, and yes, even teachers such as myself are grappling with the uncertainty and the anxiety that stems from the unprecedented nature of this upcoming academic year as crisis looms.
A crisis is defined as a time of difficulty, trouble, or danger.
We often relate the word crisis with a negative connotation, but a crisis is also a time when difficult and important decisions must be made. A crisis can also be a turning point (a moment in time), where significant change occurs.
As an educator, I consider myself to be a lifelong learner. I live to learn, and I learn to live. I see life as a class and the world we all live in as a massive classroom. As a result, I am fascinated with the origins and processes of things. For me, words are no different. I love studying words. Someone once said they thought of me as a “word-smith” although the grades I earned in elementary and middle school English may argue the contrary! Studying the word “crisis,” I found that it derives from the word “sift.” Nowadays, we don’t hear the word sift too often, but growing up as a boy in the small, rural Southwest Louisiana town of Mossville with my grandmother, Lillie Mae Smith, that word was used often. See, Lillie Mae baked, cooked, and canned preserves. She made jelly, jam, and fruit preserves from figs and pears, to name a few. As she prepared these preserves in that small Louisiana kitchen, I often saw her use a utensil called a sifter. This sifter was a cylindrical device that allowed finely processed things like flour, baking powder, sugar, etc. to be combined and strained. As it fell through the sifter’s fine strainers, any lumps or anything that was not processed or refined could not come through. I’m reminded of my grandmother and that sifter now more than ever. I believe that the crisis we are currently in is not necessarily to break us or cause us to fail, but it is an opportunity that will refine us. Music, art, and movement are not only refined artforms, but they are essential elements to everything that refines us and makes us human. Music, art, and movement have carried us through crises before, whether natural disasters, times of unrest, or personal struggles. As we allow this situation to help us and allow ourselves to be helped, we transform our trials as we seize the opportunity this current crisis presents for us all. We will come out refined, becoming part of something better than we could have been alone or otherwise.
I challenge you to see the good in every day…even a crisis. Like Winston Churchill, I challenge you never to let a good crisis go to waste.