I'm listening to, "Credo," a song based upon a poem by Onerva, a feisty 20th century Finnish feminist poet and put to music by Maria Ylipää. (CLICK to play). My friend translated this song and I remember it meaning something to the effect of, "No painful experiences are in vain," and "We can all grow from that which hurts us." I'm not sure I agree with this sentiment but for those who can get past painful experiences, perhaps this is true. We all have painful experiences that close us down to new ideas, new experiences, new relationships, and maybe it's the struggle that makes us more insightful, more willing to forgive, and more apt to understand the pain of others.
In art as in life, it depends on the person and their interpretation of their experiences that creates beauty or disaster...and perhaps there is reason why children look at us with open eyes while many adults close themselves off to the unknown; we've had painful experiences that make us less open and less vulnerable. Time and time again, we are taught that life's new and unpredictable circumstances can hurt and we start to close the doors to potential pain. Unfortunately, it also hinders one's ability to move forward with fresh ideas and an open mind - not a good way to solve global problems or fix an education system, for sure. Are there ways to unlock our creativity once it's been blocked? When I walked into this one Finnish classroom, little did I know that this teacher would guide us through musical activities that would ultimately make me more open, more creative, and more innovative in my thinking - and start to shed the barriers that keep me from expressing my own musicality.
This winter I visited a school in Espoo, Finland because Howard Sklar, a childhood friend who was now married, living and working in Espoo, had invited me to his school. He arranged for me to meet and observe science teachers, which I did, but it was also suggested I try to visit Terhi Oksanen's music class. In a kind twist of fate, Terhi walked by and invited me to join her class at 1:00. Without reservation, I said, "Sure!" I had learned that problem solving was occurring in all areas of Finnish curriculum and I was looking forward to seeing what Terhi did with her students.
For decades, however, I've been frustrated because I wanted to shed this overcoat of rigidity and had not known how, or been able, to do so.
After I left Espoo I took the 25-minute bus and 5-hour train ride back to Joensuu, and Terhi and I kept in touch; I returned to Espoo the next month to interview her about how she teaches music and how she incorporates problem solving into her lessons. I was fascinated with the Orff-Schulwerk methods she used and she told me she had learned these methods from Doug Goodkin from San Francisco. Once again, here was a Finnish teacher telling me about how she was using an American teacher or American educational research for her work with students - and time and time again I was shown that American education used to be on the right track with our educational research and teaching until the focus went away from learning ... and toward achieving high test scores.
JaSeSoi ry Orff Teacher Training in Orivesi, Finland, with 80+ Finnish music teachers. I knew I could only stay 2.5 days of the 5-day workshop but at least I could experience a part of it. This class turned out to be extremely difficult for me but in the end it was far more inspirational and fulfilling than uncomfortable.
But it wasn't easy....
(To be continued.)