I’m losing it with a boy in today’s school drumming session. It’s most unprofessional of me but I’m going to make sure he never does this again. It’s a mixed class of 10 year olds and he’s white, privileged and seemingly rather popular. I’ve just assigned a conducting role to a shy black girl. Why? Because I can see she’s coming out of her shyness and is capable of leading the class. She’s been developing in confidence before my very eyes. She was a wallflower at the start. She’s ready to step forward now though, I can feel it.
As I’m handing her the baton this cocky little tyke steps up and grabs it out of my hand, smiling at all his mates. He’s confident and good looking, I’ll give him that.
It’s an affluent area of North London and I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents have signed him up for modelling work. He’s got a better haircut than I’ve EVER had.
I can see from the behaviour of his teacher and the rest of the class this is a regular thing that he simply gets away with.
Not in ‘Black History Month’ he doesn’t. That’s when all drummers are offered school work in London.
Through the red mist of every social injustice I’ve ever experienced I can feel something forming, “Not on my watch. This is going to stop today”.
I have no idea what I’m saying but it feels like the whole school has stopped. The clocks aren’t ticking inside, the birds aren’t singing outside. The teacher’s jaw has just hit the floor and it’s staying there. The boy, who looked like a teenager seconds ago, looks like the child he actually is.
Tumbleweed blows through the playground. Slowly.
Then I’m suddenly explaining to the excited class why I’ve picked this particular girl. Let’s call her Vicki. Vicki has a natural feel for today’s rhythm but she also has some dormant mischief about her too. That’s exactly what we want in a band leader. They nod in agreement.
“In fact,” I say. “I’ve seen this magic combination in quite a few of the girls here this morning. Boys, pay attention, you can learn a lot from how the girls communicate with each other to hold the beat together. In comparison you lot are a shambles”.
Haha. Legacy. I say a version of this to every mixed class I ever work with. For one thing it’s true, and for another it actually whips the boys into shape and makes my job easier.
To everyone’s surprise the good looking boy, let’s call him Alex, apologises to Vicki very graciously and hands her the baton. He also nods at me in a “got it sir” kind of way. His apology to her is genuine and earns the respect of us all.
I’m not the most even tempered person, and when I lose it, I lose it. However, if I was asked what ‘the learning’ is here, the key is for me to acknowledge I’m in the wrong, apologise fast and then go BEYOND what just happened, not ‘back to normal’, but to spring forward taking everyone with me.
The regular class teacher, let’s call her Jacqui, collars me as I’m leaving and says, “Wow. Where did you learn to do that?”
“Spring forward? I don’t know”, I say. “School work isn’t my main thing. It’s what I do in October. The rest of the time I’m just a drummer”.