Wisdom from the Elders


David presented several ideas centering around the concepts of validation, advocacy, and empowerment, which resonated deeply with me. I find it very moving that David not only teaches how to be a teacher, but also lives and enacts his wisdom as he speaks. The messages he conveys are not just words, but living, breathing advocacy. This is a powerful thing.

I love that David approaches teaching from the perspective of addressing the student as a whole person, as a human being. Words have such power to shape the lives of students positively or negatively, and David addressed this directly when he told us, “You are a precious child.”
“You are intelligent.”
“You have the ability to learn inside of you. You can learn how to do anything.”

These words are transformative, and they hold great power for both the speaker and the listener. It is exciting to hear these words, even jarring, when I consider how infrequently I have heard them used in the education system. More often than not, I heard the words “You are not enough” or “You do not have the ability” as a student growing up, and I still see these ideas heavily perpetuated in many classrooms today. As a classical musician, I have often dealt with hearing more criticism and negative comments than positive, uplifting ones. Unfortunately these are pervasive attitudes that have been perpetuated for generations in my field. To hear David show that the core goals of the teacher should be to validate, affirm, uplift, bolster, build up, and love the student is powerful. He demonstrated that a great teacher is a guide who reveals the strength and ability that already live inside the student. I experienced this positivity as a student with one of my viola mentors, and it changed the way I think about learning, teaching, and life. I want to continue David’s message to my own students because I know from personal experience that affirmation, validation, and positive reinforcement can mean the difference between success and failure for a student.


David’s teachings have enormous implications for teaching in the music classroom. I want to integrate his ideas on validation and empowerment into the structure of my classroom and my lessons. I can implement this by teaching my students how to give themselves and their peers positive feedback about their playing and tempering any critical comments with positive affirmations. A successful musician can identify both things that they need to improve AND things that they did well in their playing. Guiding students to give each other positive affirmations can help to build the whole ensemble’s self esteem.

5 thoughts on “Wisdom from the Elders”

  1. I like where you are going with his messages and how you clearly laid out how you will apply what you learned on a daily level in the classroom.

  2. Kate, I love how directly you applied the message of our elders to yourself, your experiences and your future classroom.

  3. Thank you for sharing your feelings about this. I think sometimes people may forget that all children are capable of learning, regardless of where they came from. As he said, we are all precious children.

  4. Katie, awesome job making such a personal connection with your experiences and teaching music. Something to add, is that I have always heard David talk about constructive criticism – he always make it a point to recognize when another elder has told him something different than what he has said, that even at his age and cultural upbringing he can’t puff his chest out and act like he knows everything. He always thanks those elders when he does this. I am always amazed when he does this, he sets such a high precedent when it comes to being a learner, being humble, sharing knowledge, accepting criticism, etc. Just a random thought that came to my head when I was reading your post. I’m excited to see how your year pans out in Juneau!

  5. Katie, You’re amazing and I’m excited to have the privileged of teaching with you at JAMM this year! Yay!

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