adding my voice to the choir (saying goodbye)

I wouldn’t say that I loved my high school experience as much as some people I know. It certainly wasn’t horrible, but I don’t look back with great fondness for the “days gone by” when thinking about those four years.

That being said, there are two reasons I will always be grateful that my parents made the sacrifices necessary to send me to a private, Christian junior high/high school when there was a local, public option about 10 minutes closer to our home.

The first thing I’m eternally grateful for is meeting my husband. I first spoke to him when I was 14. The rest is history. Of course, I don’t believe in fate or chance or luck. My parents could have sent me to Timbuktu and if the Lord purposed for us to be married, we would be. I get that and believe that. Still, BCHS was where we met and Sean has been the best thing that has ever happened to me, this side of heaven.

The second thing for which I am filled with deep gratitude are the six years that I spent in the choral program, under the instruction of Miss Carleda Hutton. From 7th-12th grade I sat in a large choir room, being taught all manner of choral musical education and I consider it a true gift that because of this, I can now read sheet music, discern choral parts, likely conduct a small group of students if push came to shove, sing several songs in Latin and German, pick up instruments and have some knowledge of how to play, sing by heart numerous hymns, and the list goes on.

If someone had Miss Hutton as a teacher, they can likely do these same things. These are wonderful skills she taught us, but they are eclipsed quickly by the real education Miss Hutton delivered.

Carleda directed our school choir for over 50 years. She knew what she was doing. She has a rock solid pedagogical system and she stuck with it. She wasn’t soft and she didn’t let us get away with anything. She demanded respect and I recall even the most sharp-tounged students would zip their lip when she instructed them to. She had the respect of her students not because she frightened them but because (I think) we all understood she deserved it. We knew that Miss Hutton loved us, wanted the best for us, and was going to teach us what we needed whether we liked it at that moment or not.

When I say she taught us what we “needed” I’m not speaking about music instruction. Yes, Miss Hutton surrounded us with music that expressed the greatness of the Lord, but more importantly she taught us about the Lord. She taught us why we should want to sing those songs. Each class began with a Bible lesson on the glory of Christ, His gospel, and why we should be honored and compelled to raise our voices to Him. My other classes didn’t start like that….I don’t remember talking about the intricacies of the cell and how that displayed the creativity of God. I’m sure it might have happened, but I distinctly remember Miss Hutton’s devotion to Christ because it was the foundation of all she taught. Music wouldn’t start until we understood why she thought it was important for us to sing.

As an educator I have come to understand the vital importance of knowing the “why” behind the paideia. Why do we teach? Why do we instruct our children? Why does it matter?

For the Christian, all educational paths begin with Christ at the foundation. It really must. If Christ is the creator of all things, His goodness and power are exhibited throughout all of the world and woven into every subject…..we are pulled toward learning about His world because if He made it, it is worth studying, loving, fearing, and knowing. This is the bedrock and beginning of all knowledge. Understanding the world will only be eternally fruitful if we use our energy and resources to draw from His well. He is to be the start of all education.

Without a desire to understand God’s world because He made it (and is in every piece of it), it would seem fair to suggest that a completely secular education is basically teaching people facts and figures so they will get “good enough” grades, get into a “good enough” college, and life will be….”good enough.” I’m not sure I can be convinced that there is much more to it. Sure, one could say that they are teaching so the student can learn to appreciate beauty through art history or champion organic chemistry in the hopes of possibly creating a new medicinal marvel.

But that would be its ultimate conclusion and nothing further. If we as believers are honest, what is the point of momentary and fleeting beauty if there is no God?

Miss Hutton understood this. All the best teachers do.

There has to be more to teaching, educating, filling young minds. There has to be an everlasting component because, if there is not, we might as well all pursue whatever hedonistic pursuits we find most pleasurable and be done with the entire charade. I’m sure that seems very purposeless, selfish, and not quite workable for a national economy, but it is essentially is the argument at hand.

We learn because God created each and everything in the world and it is worth knowing because He is wise, and perfect. If there is no God, the real purpose of learning turns into a social construct of what we “ought” to do in order to survive and live out our short years with the least amount of discomfort.

Miss Hutton understood this. All the best teachers do.

They teach outside of their own passions and preferences, always turning the focus back to the King of all the Universe, in order to draw our attentions and attractions to Him….this is when education soars and becomes eternally meaningful.

This is when learning becomes a fire.

This is when children have their eyes and hearts open to the mysteries of our planet and created order.

This is when facts are not just for memorization but revered because they are part of the story.

Miss Hutton was one of the greats not simply because she led her choirs through competitions or taught us to sing in other languages or because she was revered amongst her contemporaries.

She was one of the greats because she was a student of Christ and He informed her lesson plans. Her words. Her attitudes. Her interactions with students. Her life.

Miss Hutton was a true teacher because Christ was her curriculum.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing your words about our dear Carleda. I didn’t have the privilege to be in her school choir, three of my children did, but, I was in her church choir for many years.

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