To Channel Madeleine L'Engle

"I wanted the choir to be good. I wanted us to sing good music, and to be a success. Some of the volunteer singers had beautiful voices; one had a great one. Some of them couldn't stay in tune and pulled the whole group down into a flat, sodden mass. One woman stayed in key, all right, but at full volume at all times, and with an unpleasant, nasal whine. If the choir was to be a success, the obvious first thing to do was to ease out some of the problem voices. "I couldn't do it. I don't know why, but something told me that every single person in that choir was more important than the music. 'But the music is going to be terrible,' I wailed to the invisible voice. 'That doesn't matter. That's not the reason for this choir.' I didn't ask what was, but struggled along. The extraordinary, lovely thing was that the music got to be pretty good, far better, I am now convinced, than it would have been if I'd put the music first and the people second."

Madeleine L'Engle in A Circle of Quiet (1972) writing about her stint as the choir director for her church, ultimately coming to the conclusion that the more people that stayed in the group singing in fellowship towards a shared vision, the better, even if some of those voices sucked sometimes. We all have students whose behavior or attention suck sometimes or a lot of the time. To channel L'Engle, to recognize that the whole will be richer with those "less pleasant voices" in the mix, helps me to chill the hell out, and to positively envision a community of learners that stay in the program, even if I sometimes let myself believe they don't "deserve" to be there because they don't seem cut out for the role.


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