Tag Archives: negative

Mouthing the words – the golem effect

Singing is a wonderful gift. To be able to entertain oneself and others with no instrument other than one’s voice must give enormous pleasure.

But I can only imagine the joy it must bring, for I am no singer.

When I was at school and we were all lined up and squished in on the stairs performing for parents in our end-of-year concerts, I was told to mouth the words.

Unlike the recommendation in the song written by Joe Raposo for Sesame Street and made famous by the Carpenters “Sing a Song

“Don´t worry that it´s not good enough for anyone else to hear.
Just sing.
Sing a song.”

I was told to not sing, for it was not good enough for anyone else to hear. I accepted the verdict without question, as was expected of us at school, and mouthed the words.

Of course, my school days were long over before Joe wrote his wonderful song, and maybe no one since then has been subjected to the same humiliation.

Over the years various family members and friends have tried to be encouraging but their words have seemed hollow, for I “knew” the truth to be otherwise. One family member even told me that, when I “sang” nursery rhymes, I sounded just like Patsy Biscoe. But that’s not true. Patsy has a beautiful voice. You can listen to her here.

Sometimes it is difficult to not sing along for music is so inviting, often almost demanding that one join in.

In an early childhood classroom, music is a very important part of the day; and as an early childhood teacher, I incorporate music and singing into the program, always at the beginning and end of the day, and many times in between. I have blogged about this before here and here.

Fortunately for me, and the students, music is so readily available on CD or the internet, that finding songs for the children to sing along with is no longer a problem.  I apologise here to all the students who have had to suffer my joining in and “singing” along with them though, when I couldn’t resist the temptation. I must admit that none of them ever complained when I joined in. But I have no idea what they went home and told their parents either!

I believe strongly in the power of positive encouragement to improve children’s self-esteem, confidence, willingness to have a go, and learning outcomes.

I also know that a negative attitude encourages children to have a negative attitude towards themselves and their abilities, decreases self-esteem, erodes confidence and creates anxiety and a fear of trying new things or of having a go.

According to Wikipedia

“The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform. The effect is named after the greek myth of Pygmalion.

A corollary of the Pygmalion effect is the golem effect, in which low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. The Pygmalion effect and the golem effect are forms of self-fulfilling prophecy. People will take the belief they have of themselves (negative in this case) and attribute traits of the belief with themselves and their work. This will lead them to perform closer to these expectations that they set for themselves. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regard to education and social class.”

Surprisingly I had never thought of this in relation to my singing disability, until recently.

Engaged in a Twitter discussion with Anne Goodwin (@Annecdotist) and Caroline Lodge (@lodge_c) I mentioned that I listen to audiobooks on my drive to work. Anne replied that she listens to music on long journeys, trying to “fix choral music in my head”.

I replied, innocently enough, I thought:

1

To which they both responded with the type of “encouragement” I had heard many times before “Give it a go. Everyone can sing.”

So I told them about being told to mouth the words, and I was both surprised and challenged by their responses:

2

3

4

I had never thought of my singing disability as a learned disability. I had always thought of it being a physiology issue and, later, perhaps a hearing issue.

I am not very good at mimicking vocal (other than speech) sounds, or at identifying which note, of two given notes, is the higher or lower. I did enrol in a brain training program which included aural exercises involving recognition of higher or lower pitch. While I did make some improvement, my scores weren’t high (I could tell that high/low difference).

The comments of Anne and Caroline made me think about this:

What came first: the singing disability or the disability teaching?

Could I have learned, if given the opportunity, to sing a least a few bars in tune? Could I still be taught?

It has sometimes crossed my mind that singing lessons could be an interesting experiment.

Anne and Caroline are both encouraging, and Caroline commented:

6

I do love music and perhaps, one day, I will go for it and find out the truth about my singing ability.

Perhaps I will learn to sing and fulfill the dream “to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”.

But for now, the experiment will have to wait, I have other things to learn.

What do you think?

Do you consider yourself a singer?

Can everyone learn to sing?

Is it a human right?

Could my singing ability really be a “golem effect”?

What disability have you learned, if any?

As a parent or teacher, how do you ensure your children do not suffer from a learned disability?

You can read more from Anne or Caroline by clicking on their names.