Teaching Reflections “with” Adam Levine (and Camila Torres*)

Some things really touch my heart! And I like to think they also touch my brain. Because as I see it, it is not possible to really learn anything (or in other words, for something to stay in my brain) if it doesn’t also touch my heart.

Being true to that belief, I must conclude that I only succeed doing my job as a teacher when something in our class actually touches my student(s) heart(s). What a high ambition, right? I can’t say that it always happens, but I certainly try every class to bring things that are relevant to each and every one of my partners. Because that’s how I actually see my students – as partners – after all, we’re in this together! And, boy, do they often touch my heart as well?! Today I have just taught a class where I wept a couple of times. It happened as we were working with two songs. In both cases we were talking about the singer’s power to reach people.

And that brings me to the point. The following music video is in my opinion a brilliant demonstration of some very important skills any teacher should have. Of course you could/should enjoy the whole song, but I would like to invite you to see what happens once the song is actually over (minute 4:30). The skills are numbered in the order that they occur, not necessarily in order of importance.

First of all, Adam Levine, the lead singer in Maroon 5, starts by acknowledging that he does not speak Portuguese, which could actually be a natural hindrance as most Brazilians don’t speak (or understand) English. Besides, there are loads of people at the concert, which makes the task at hand all the more difficult, but by having the courage to try, he implies that “We can do this together!”.  This way he starts building rapport (Skill 1).  Then he starts explaining the activity using lots of gestures (Skill 2 – meaning negotiation). He offers a clear model (Skill 3) and asks for some repetitions. Not boring, cold meaningless repetitions of some random sentence about irrelevant or inexistent people, but repetitions that he seems to be singing with all his heart. He shows it first, then does it with the audience and finally lets them do it by themselves. During this last step, not only does he let them work independently, but he rather seems to be enjoying it. I don’t know if we can call it an actual skill, but to me it certainly is essential for a teacher to be engaged and share his students’ achievements.

When working with the second group, which has a little more difficult line, he gives them small remarks that continuously reinforce rapport, encourage them to go on and make the next part of the task clear (“Just that one.” “Real simple!” “Don’t stop!”). Then both groups work together and create a beautiful moment that I’m sure will stick with them all for a very long time, if not forever!

Finally, Adam wraps it all up by saying “Thank you, Brazil! We’ll NEVER, EVER, EVER forget this!” How wonderful is that? The artist being able to share the joy of the moment with his audience and show appreciation. Is that another important skill (4) or what?

I don’t know if this was something he had planned from the get go or just an idea he got in the spirit of the moment, which would make it all the more touching. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? A great lesson plan (another essential thing for a teacher to know how to do! Skill 5) should never stand in the way of an idea that is born out of class synergy.

* Camila Torres is the student whose class I mentioned in the beginning of the post.

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