Encouragement is like water to children’s dreams. Support from parents, teachers and peers is a force that can will a child to persevere where many might otherwise surrender. It is a gift that my parents gave to me and I continue to pass on to my daughter. I wonder, however, if unbiased praise is always beneficial. Is there a point where a young soccer player who has the co-ordination of a blind, three legged dog on crack should be told to maybe try something else?
I only ask this because I was that kid. Not on the soccer field. I knew and accepted early on that I wasn’t destined to be an athlete. For me it was my voice. As kids, my brother and I loved to sing. Our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles always showered us with praise every time we belted out a tune. My own desire to be a singer combined with their encouragement led me to believe we were a younger version of the Everly Brothers. Apparently, not so much. But I never had any reason to doubt my talents. So I kept singing.
And sing I did. I chanted in the shower, crooned in my bedroom and rocked in the backyard. I was always unrestrained and unreserved. You can imagine, then, the surprise and shock I felt when a schoolmate of mine interrupted my rendition of Jessie’s Girl, by Rick Springfield, and bluntly informed me that I really didn’t sound as good as I thought I did. As a matter of fact, I kind of sucked. Could this be true? Could it be that I wasn’t headed for stardom? Nah! I had been singing for years and everyone that mattered thought I was great. So I kept singing.
Unfortunately, I was hit with a second dose of reality and it came with a much harsher slap in the face. My sixth grade choir teacher ever so politely told me to ‘just mouth the words’ during the upcoming interschool choir contest. She was concerned that my vocal ‘talents’ would damage the choir’s chances of winning the competition. Ouch.
Was my teacher wrong? On the one hand it was good that someone told me my voice wasn’t as stellar as I thought. On the other hand, she could have offered a little one on one help and training. Failing all else, she could have just put me in the back row and let the other voices drown mine out. Reality checks are always a good thing, but they should be given with a splash of encouragement and support.
Fortunately, I had the support of my family. I never stopped singing and it is doubtful that I ever will (Much to my students’ chagrin!) I might not be destined to be the next American Idol; however, I won’t stop singing like I am.
Jessie’s Girl youtube link