Below My Feet

Studio music sets the tone to many days. The studio’s learning rhythm is seldom lecture-based, and much more often practice-based.  This week in Ceramics I is the first week on the wheel, and I’m not allowing the students to make… anything.  Not a thing.  The process of centering is about muscle memory – learning the feel, and committing to it.  Take away the pressure of needing to have a product, and the experience of working with clay is all about learning to use one’s hands and body, and to quiet one’s mind.  So – frequently music helps.  If there’s one thing a teenager knows, it’s how to zone out to music.  When I find the right album, I can coax an entire class into a zone – and that zone seems to work well in the early stages of throwing pots.

Here’s yesterday’s moment of synchronicity.  The new Mumford and Sons album came out, and I splurged in the early morning hours, so we could listen to the album all day long.  The song, Below My Feet:

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn
Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

That song is playing during 8th period, and one student – after successfully centering his clay two or three times in a row – blurts out, “I love working with my hands!”  At first, a chuckle or two, and then some other, “me toos.”  This really happend.  Teens get a reputation for being jaded, but put some mud in front of them and many turn back to happy, uncensored little kids.  I don’t think any of them heard what was playing on the speakers.  But I commented, “You know, I think we spend so much of our learning time using our eyes and our ears to learn.  What happens when we use our hands to learn instead, or along-with?  Do you think that’s important?”  A chorus of happy, centered, “yeahs.”  I mean, I might have coerced them a little.  Their hands were all muddy, and most of them had gotten centering during that class period.

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn.  That’s backwards of how we approach learning most of the time.  Our eyes (and ears) learn.  Occasionally, if a school supports service learning, our hands serve.  But what if our eyes have a more selfless mission to carry out?  What if learning, with our eyes, adapts into a model of service?  What if learning to discern, to sort out truth from bias, and to see the world as it really is, became a service mission of our vision?  What if learning by doing became the mission of our hands?  Meaning – learning what we were capable of doing, learning how our hands can enact real change and good in the world.

That’s a lot of what-ifs for a morning, I suppose.  Add ’em to the list.


2 thoughts on “Below My Feet

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