Each year, the Teachers College Development Office tells me the names of the recipients of the John F. Fanselow Scholarship Award which a group of former students established when I retired and have subsequently raised money to support the fund. When I visit NY I contact the recipients to discuss their teaching and congratulate them personally at meals at our apartment. I share with them some of my recent writing as they share with me the projects that they did to complete their MA in TESOL at Teachers College.

I am constantly inspired by the recipients of the Scholarship. Here are some reflections from Framcis Corva, III, who teaches in NYC and received the scholarship last year. His comments are based on the attachment, which is my most recent synthesis of my ideas from Breaking Rules, Contrasting Conversations and Try the Opposite. I think it was Robert L. Stevenson who said  ”To omit, to omit, to omit; if I only knew how to omit I could make an Iliad of the daily newspaper.” The attachment is contains less than 5% of the 3 books but I hope the main substance.

“There is one thing that I wanted to mention about your both your statement about breaking rules as well as the book and it keeps reminding me about something that I felt about certain artists that I worked with while I was in the music business. You mentioned that you wrote Breaking Rules to try to help teachers stay away from fads or constraints upon their teaching and I think that part of the idea of breaking rules is what resonates most deeply with me. It was always the artists that stayed away from the fads and did what they believed that had longevity and careers, versus those that were a flash in the plan. And it was always the artists that could reflect on what they had created and then be fearless enough to abandon some of their “sound” so to make way for their evolution. I hang out with a lot of comedians now and I notice this pattern with them, as well. They are constantly scrapping what doesn’t work for them anymore after reflecting on their sets (which they often tape and listen back to - one of them even transcribes them!). The process breeds authenticity, which is something that people trust. It’s also something that students trust more than I think most teachers give credit for - especially children. So many things in music have become a fad, just as so many forms of pedagogy have done the same as of late. I wouldn’t say that it is sickening as much as I would say that I just don’t even think people know how out of touch they are as a teacher. I suffer from it at times, too. Especially in the public education system, there is just so much shoved down the throats of teachers in terms of how they are supposed to teach and what is “proper” or “acceptable” pedagogy, that most people are too busy fearing for their jobs to take the time to reflect on what works. I think what happens though is that the lack of reflection is what leads to burnout and/or stagnation. Once the teacher stops being the artist that evolves he or she does what he or she does just to remain commercially viable, which does not last. I do not want to sound like I am sitting on a high horse saying this, because I have a lot of work to do to continue to grow as a teacher, and I think that it is sad that so many people are fearing for their jobs and/or are so miserable on the job, but I can acknowledge what it is and at least try to adapt for my own self-preservation and for the benefit of my students. I mentioned in the previous email that I wanted to be more fearless and how I wanted to win over the students more than anything and the best thing I can equate that to is a band being true to themselves and in turn preserving their authenticity and their audience’s faith in them.”

Enjoy, enjoy.

John, with Francis