Have you ever felt insecure? Beat yourself up over a mistake that was made? Had thoughts that you are not good enough or that you are being judged? Have there been times when you do not feel loved or important? No matter what station you are at in your life or how old or young you are, you are not alone. For many years of my life, I felt like I was the only one that these insecurities impacted. When I began teaching middle and high school chorus this year, I realized that these self-doubts and lies are frequently occurring, often crippling, and span across the spectrum of ages. Everyone is impacted by them and I became determined to find a way to help identify the lies of my students so that I could help them learn to combat them.
At the beginning of the school year, I needed to hear each individual voice of the 18 beautiful students that I was going to be working with. I immediately saw a trending lie, “I am not good enough.” As soon I asked a student to sing aloud by themselves in front of their peers, they froze with fear, apologized for their singing before they even started, expressed multiple negative comments about themselves or their voices, and hesitated to the point that they could not phonate the first note. This crippling fear and self-doubt went well beyond the music classroom. Every day at the school, I witnessed students being impacted by their lies, making themselves small as to not attract attention from others, talking negatively about themselves and their abilities both in and out of school, walking in the hall with their eyeballs glued to the floor without looking up to make connection with those around them. I knew within the first week of teaching that my job was much bigger than simply teaching music. I felt moved to create and incorporate tools that would lift students up and, in the process allow them to lift up others.
What has evolved for our chorus class is an environment of support, positive self-talk, confidence, and grace. And this culture has spread well beyond our four walls. I hear our students spreading our daily practices to other students daily, and it makes my heart smile! Of the many tools we utilize on a daily basis, “take two” has been the most viral and impactful.
In our little chorus community, we have incorporated the phrase “take two” paired with an arm signal mimicking a “clapperboard.” This phrase started when students were preparing for auditions for our fall musical. While performing their song in front of their peers for practice, if a mistake was made, they often could not recoup. They often became more anxious than they originally were and could not re-center themselves enough to try again. “Take two” became the phrase I would say to them every time this occurred. It gave them the ability to give themselves grace and have a fresh start, erasing the “first take.” Before I knew it, students were “take two-ing” themselves! Now, if they make a mistake, they give the “take two” motion with their arms and redo what they feel the need to.
This tool has gone well beyond being used for musical fumbles. I quickly found myself using “take two” on myself when my lies started creeping in. And when I do it, it makes me smile at how elementary it seems. When I start feeling like I am not important or not enough (two of my personal biggest lies), “take two” reminds me to switch to positive self-talk and squash the lie. I began experimenting with this use of the tool on my students and it worked on them also. Whenever a student makes a negative comment about themselves or one that seems to be coming from an internal lie, I give a “take two” and they find a way to rephrase using verbiage that is gentle towards themselves. Through practicing this daily, each of them has learned to start recognizing the lies that cause their negative self-talk on their own. The impact of this has been incredible to witness!
Practicing “take two” every day in our classroom has muted the fear of judgement and strengthened our empathy and grace for each other. I have witnessed this simple tool transform my students into confident humans who not only give grace to each other but also to themselves. “Take two” is now spreading throughout the school, into our homes, and has become part of our daily verbiage. So, the next time you make a mistake or notice your lies creeping in, give grace to yourself and others with a big fat “TAKE TWO!”