Last week I discovered the contagious, energetic magic of the chorus from PS22 in Staten Island, New York.
What captivates me about the PS22 Chorus is the way the children express themselves while singing. Singing isn’t just a vocal experience for them; it is a full-body experience.
The more I watched, the more curious I became about this choir and this culture that sustains it.
I found part of my answer in a full-length documentary about the chorus.
In the film, the school’s principal commented that they consider their school to be a “gifted and talented school.”
She clarified that the school is not officially in New York City’s gifted and talented program;
rather, the school’s administration and teachers seek to illuminate the gifts that already exist within each child.
What an amazing mindset shift. Instead of teaching to a certain level of student, they adopt a mindset that each student is gifted already. Which, of course, is true. Not all gifts show up on standardized exams.
With this approach, there is no segmentation of students; no “gifts” versus “non-gifted,” no “us” versus “them,” nobody is better or worse. There is no separation. No marginalization.
All students belong equally.
What’s possible when you make that shift, when you approach your interaction with a student not from “what do I have to teach him?” or “what does she need to learn?” but rather “how can I help this person see and access her gifts?”
You’re no longer trying to fill students with information. You’re no longer trying to fix or improve them. You are not seeking to “teach” them in the typical sense.
The encouragement to be who you are creates a sense of safety that allows a person to remain open. That openness creates the space for learning and absorption of knowledge.
The secret to the success of Gregg Breinberg and the PS22 Chorus is that “Mr. B” isn’t just teaching music. He is helping these children be seen.
Not just by millions of people watching YouTube.
Not just by their families.
Helping others feel seen and heard, and embody their full expression of who they are is the greatest gift we can give to others.
The places where we are seen and heard are the holy places. — Rachel Naomi Remen
For these children, school is a holy place. It is a place where souls are nurtured.
Consider that even if you don’t stand in front of a classroom, you are someone’s teacher.
How does this change your approach to others in this regard? How would it shift your relationships with your kids, colleagues, clients, friends?
Consider that you are your own teacher.
How does this shift your mindset in your own path of personal development?
Each of us has the power to create holy places.