Monday, May 6, 2013

Why I Could Never Be a Singer in a Bar

So I'm watching The Voice, my guilty pleasure, and am really in awe. This is no American Idol, where judges take pleasure in tearing the aspiring star to shreds. These artists are picked solely on their vocal ability and taken under the wing of a coach to hone their skills. It's actually quite beautiful to watch if you are a sap like me.

But, like all of us, these people didn't start off at the top. They have busted their asses to get where they are today. They have probably had to do things they didn't want to do and been humbled along the way. But humility breeds true success regardless of vocation and is often underrated and tucked away in the depths of most of our memories. Few people really embrace the humble moments in their lives that have led them to where they are today.

There is one young girl on the show, Sarah Simms (I think that's her name) who literally takes my breath away with her voice. She left vocal school to take a chance on the show and I'm pretty sure she made the right choice. It's clear she loves what she does and will do what it takes to be successful, regardless of what that looks like. Now, I'm entirely sure what her whole back story is but many of these people have sang to nearly empty rooms of people who may be more interested in picking up the girl across the room than listening to someone doing what they love.

This is why I could never be a singer in a bar.

You see....I already feel like a singer in a bar, so to actually have to be one (forget the little detail that I can't sing) would be devastating. Teaching often feels like what I assume singing in a bar feels like. Maybe I'm just suffering from end of semester burnout but my aggravation is real. Dare I say it's a generational thing but I am of the school of thought that humility has gone by the wayside.

I love teaching. I really do. I look back at the people who have most influenced my life along the way and there are more teachers (or employer/mentors) on that list than anyone else. I think teaching gives me the opportunity to open people's minds to a different point of view. I insist on pushing the envelope and creating uncomfortable moments in order to force people to think. But the fact of the matter is....some people don't care.

There is absolutely nothing more disheartening than standing in front of people who are sitting in a room under the premise that they want to further their education and realizing that some are simply going through the motions because a) they have to please their parents, b) they don't know what else to do or c) they assume their presence in a room is enough and should be rewarded.  Basically, it's like being a singer in a bar.

When you are a singer in a bar, you have 3 general groups of people in the crowd (I know this because I used to bartend). The first group is actually interested in listening to you. They like your music and want to hear you. The second group stumbled in the place and you just happened to be there. They might end up liking you or they might spend the majority of the time texting their friends; people who aren't even there, so in essence, they aren't there either. The third group are completely ignoring you but in a way that borders on offensive. They talk louder than the music, complain about the noise you are making or make snide comments. And if I was a singer in a bar, that would piss me off.

Since sometimes teaching is like being a singer in a bar, I have moments that really piss me off. It's not that everyone has to love me. Because, I know everyone doesn't love me (see "Owning Your Shit" blog). Instead, it's about respect and humility. Because when a person sits in a classroom, they are being given an opportunity. And there are a handful of students I encounter that have never framed the experience in that way. They are being given an opportunity that some people will never get. And they piss it away. They believe it's a means to an end and I am the catalyst. And the catalyst should reward them regardless of effort. And that's the one that blows me away the most.

I have never been afraid to work. Regardless of what that work looked like. If it was a paper in college, it had to be the best paper. If it was bartending, I had to be the fastest and most efficient. And if I have to get up and speak in front of people, I have to make people interested. And some of them aren't. And that humbles me in a way I hate but am learning to embrace in this role.

My boss reminded me that I'm just helping natural selection along by thinning out the "can do's" from the "won't do's". And for the record I have many "can do's". I even have "can't do very well's but try anyway". But those "won't do's" piss me off. They make me feel like a singer in a bar.