Composing a Song of Strength
Co-Creating a Foundation of Well-Being for this School Year
There’s a familiar scurry and hurry as we slog through the heat of August but feel the impending start of school approaching. We also are feeling a flurry or even a fury in our bellies as we enter another school year still contending with a global pandemic we were ready to wish farewell to many months ago. From minor hassles like backordered school supplies because the supply chain is disrupted to major concerns like divisions among parents, teachers and administrators on safety, justice, and health issues, we are entering this season of change with more apprehension and emotional baggage than perhaps in previous years.
Hopefully, you took the chance this summer to have fun, to connect with family and friends, and to renew your heart and spirit in light-hearted ways. Hopefully you were able to say “yes” to social engagements and breathe a sigh of relief when it felt safe in June and July. The question that is top of mind as we begin back-to-school time is “how will I enter this season united with my family and school community committed to supporting children’s — and each other’s — well-being?”
We reflected back recently to my son’s transition between preschool and kindergarten to a whole new school, new people, new routines and new expectations. For him and for our enter family, it felt like a monumental shift. We all giggled and remembered our five-year-old singing a particularly sad and soulful James Taylor song about change from the popular (at the time) “Cars” movie. “Long ago. But not so very long ago. The world was different. Oh yes, it was.” And his Dad accurately recognized that the music transcended words. That song embodied his feelings in a much more powerful way than any language might.
Music plays a major role in so many of our rituals (like holidays, graduations, weddings and funerals). Music unifies and fortifies our communities (like at the ballpark, in a Synagogue or Church or at the Olympics). Music also gives strength to movements while fighting injustice like “Give the Ballot to the Mothers” during the women’s suffrage movement and “We Shall Overcome” during the Civil Rights movement.
It’s Time for Our Anthem
Whether you are reading this as a caring and concerned parent or a caring and concerned educator, why not begin this season with intentionality, with feeling cultivating unification and strength when we so desperately need it? I learned in these past few years that song-writing a.) can be collaborative and b.) doesn’t require tremendous musical ability or writing skill. Thanks to The Lullaby Project training (more information on this incredible organization below), I learned that writing a song can be simple and take mere minutes. Here’s how it’s done and can be done in a family or a classroom or with a school leadership team or a Parent Teacher Association. We need to write our song together to enter this year united in our care for one another!
Bring your family, or staff team or classroom together and designate an hour devoted to this important task — writing your anthem.
Take Ten Deep Breaths Together.
Yes, you could zoom into this exercise. But we are all stressed and doing what we can to manage it. Your success as a writing team will be that much greater if you come from a more centered, grounded place. So take a moment to get your body, mind and spirit into the room.
Pose the Challenge and Write!
The challenge to each other is to write a one-page love letter to your unit — your family, your school, your classroom, your leadership team. What do you love about one another? What are your greatest strengths? What are your cares? What are your hopes and dreams for this group of people? Take some quiet moments to each write your letter. Yes, this can be done virtually on a Zoom call.
Now Read your Letters to Each Other.
If all are putting their hearts into this, this is a POWERFUL experience. Just hearing each others words of love and hope for the group, hearing the potential and the gratitude in the room is enough to bolster even the most weary. Read and listen carefully to one another.
Reflect On and Write Down Memorable Words and Phrases
After deeply listening to one another, ask: “what did you hear that stuck with you, that moved you?” Be sure you’ve assigned a scribe to write them all down.
Hum Your Tune
Okay, I realize you may be squirming in your seat when you read this. You may not have sung outside of the shower in your life. I promise — no talent required. A brave soul needs to step up and put whatever tune comes to mind to the words or phrases you’ve written down just to get your group started. Once that person gets the humming ball rolling, it’s easier for others to join in and build upon that first melody.
Sing it together. If you are fortunate enough to have someone at your table who plays an instrument and can accompany you, so much the better (but not necessary!). As you sing, notice how you feel. Notice how it unifies and fortifies you. Use this! When can you make a ritual of using your anthem — morning meeting? Dinnertime blessing? Car ride to school? Don’t leave without a plan for when you will sing this song again together.
We again face uncertainty, division and even danger as we enter this back-to-school season. We will be able to face those challenges with strength and hope if we come together in love and ignite our commitment to one another’s care and well-being. Join me and my family as we write our anthem to serve as a foundation of strength for our school year to come.
Learn More about The Lullaby Project!
This idea is lovingly borrowed and adapted from an incredible organization (thank you Shannon Wanless for introducing me to it!) called The Lullaby Project from Carnegie Hall. The Lullaby Project pairs pregnant women and new mothers and fathers with professional artists to write and sing personal lullabies for their babies, supporting maternal/paternal health, aiding child development and sealing the bond between parent and child. As I listened to parents who participated (and I participated in writing my own son a song – lullabies are not just for babies!), I discovered what a source of strength they were enabling each parent to express their deep love for their child. One video showed a mother in a frustrating situation in which her son would not stop crying yet she used the lullaby and felt more confident and able to calm him down. There are Lullaby Project chapters all over the United States and the world. Learn more at their site. Check out this video of Odette, a mother in New York City who wrote a song for her son Esso.