Imagine Education Lives in the Music Profession | Benjamin Freud | 3 Min Read

This article won 2nd prize in the Intrepid Ed News Summer Writing Contest. The writing prompt was: “I think my profession needs…”  Congratulations to Benjamin Freud!

I think my profession needs to move away from the role of singer-songwriter and more toward orchestra conductor. Singer-songwriters control every aspect of the performance, from the creative process that takes place in composing pieces to the setlist, which instruments to bring onstage, the rhythm, lyrics, and even the chatter with the audience in between songs. What they don’t control is how the audience will react. Orchestra conductors don’t play instruments (at least not while they’re conducting); they point to different instrument sections, individual artists, and manage the overall emotional feel of the piece played through pace, intensity, and timing. Instruments come together at the right time to create a musical experience.

Now the picture I am painting is not the one where the teacher is the conductor and each student is a unique instrument that will blossom in its own way. That’s great too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what I mean.

In my analogy, the teacher is the conductor, each instrument is a member of the community, each instrument section is a type of person, place, or thing, and each learning experience is the music.

In my analogy, each instrument is a stakeholder in the children’s learning and the music is the learning experience. The teacher conducts the learning orchestra.

What if schools were places of learning that went beyond the classroom and connected with the community at large, drew on the expertise of practitioners who worked alongside pedagogues and students on projects that allowed all members to acquire and apply knowledge, develop skills, and most importantly, worked on addressing a problem in the community?

Teachers would then be called learning conductors, calling upon experts with different knowledge and skillsets as and when needed, sometimes individually, in pairs, sections, or all together. Conductors would quicken or slow down the pace, raise the intensity and the volume as needed to help create music that moves, music that transforms, music that has an impact on others.

Music is the learning experience. The instruments are all the people who help create music as a totality. Different specialists and practitioners come together to make music: generalist and discipline teachers, professionals, artists, experts, peers… the conductor making sure all play together in unison to…

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Benjamin Freud, Ph.D.

Benjamin Freud, Ph.D. is the co-founder of Coconut Thinking, an advisory that supports schools and learning organizations to co-create, co-develop, co-stress test, and co-implement ideas that nurture the conditions for emergent learning. Benjamin is also the Head of Upper School at Green School, Bali. He was previously the Whole School Leader of Learning and Teaching at Prem Tinsulanonda International School in Thailand. He was the Academic Coordinator at Misk Schools, one of the most prestigious and high-profile school in the kingdom. In 2018-2019, he was also the Head of Upper Primary and Middle School at Misk. Prior to this, he was Vice-Principal of the Middle School and High School at the Harbour School in Hong Kong. He holds a Ph.D. in History, an MSc in Education, an MBA, an MA in International Relations, and a BA in International Affairs. Benjamin was born and grew up in Paris, France. He moved to the U.S. when he was 15 and spent 11 years there in different cities before living in the U.K., Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and now Bali, Indonesia. He started his career in consulting for Internet start-ups in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, working with people whose ambitions were no less than to change the world. This experience had a profound effect on Benjamin's outlook on education, innovation, and entrepreneurship.