What Yo Yo Ma Has to Teach Educators

As I write these words, I’m listening to Yo Yo Ma, a well-known cellist, who never ceases to amaze me.  First, I was totally taken by his music, empathy, charisma. I remember I used to teach using a book for advanced students who talked about Yo Yo Ma and his tribute to Sarajevo during the tragic war years in the region. It deeply touched me.

And he still does in so many ways.

I could spend hours listening to him. I always feel like crying as he is such a passionate musician who plays with his heart and soul. I could finish here, for Yo Yo Ma is an accomplished cellist and has given his contribution to the world of music. However, he is much more to teach us.

Just yesterday, I read an article about his visit to MIT (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/08/inspiring-as-well-as-educating/ ) in which Yo Yo Ma talks about

the ability to find that “internal switch,” fueled by passion and engagement, that helps players to transition from feeling like “I have to do it” to “I want to do it.” Great educators need to help students tap into that sense of involvement in the classroom, he said at the opening of a two-day symposium aimed at helping teachers use the arts to inspire passion-driven learning.

That’s what I’ve been talking about for so long, and not only saying about passion-driven teaching and learning, but trying wholeheartedly to put it to practice in every class I teach.  Ma’s idea of educators helping students find this switch is exactly what makes a difference in our students’ lives and what distinguishes an ordinary teacher from a great one. And, I’m sure that if teachers are there for so long, it is because they all want to become and be great teachers.

I see so many tired, unmotivated, grumpy educators…And when I see those unlighted faces, I just wish they could listen to Yo Yo Ma and find ways to, first, turn on their passion switches that they once had, so that they can repurpose their career paths to become all that they once wanted to be as educators, inspirers of young souls.

But, where to start after so many years dragging our feet to get in the classroom? Yo Yo Ma again can give us some clues. He is one of the most eclectic musicians I’ve ever seen. He can be playing the Argentinean Piazzola or Brazilian Waldir Azevedo’s Brasileirinho, after enchanting the audiences with a classical piece. So, his secret to keep the flow? Challenging himself with a variety of styles, rythms, cultural pieces, all to connect music and people, to communicate, to engage. How about you, educator? How can you give another meaning to you professional life? Which new rythms, flavors, pedagogical practices are you challenged to try out to bring new life to your classes, to illuminate those young-spirited faces around? How are you going to turn on you internal switch to fuel your  passions and engagement?

Start by listening to Yo Yo Ma to feel what I’m talking about…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *