Chet Greason, Gazette staff
The positive output generated by music teacher Paul Coates is so potent, it could be harnessed as a new form of renewable energy.
Coates has taken his philosophy, gleaned from years of working with both young and old, and molded it into a series of motivational talks that has its roots in musical education but can be applied to various other aspects in life.
He’s now taking his interactive speaking engagements across the country.
In its essence, Coates’ methods could be described as the antithesis of the “tiger mom” parenting regiment that's been making the news lately. Whereas tiger moms use guilt, belittlement, and high expectations to ensure academic and professional perfection from their children, Coates uses unconditional support and encouragement to ensure his students are in a safe place, and therefore capable of creativity.
As he says, “You’re awesome simply because you breathe in and breathe out.
“We’re so focused on education; on getting things done,” he adds. “We’re measured for what we do, not who we are ... if you don’t conform to what we think you should do, you won’t be celebrated for who you are. And if you feel threatened, your mind will go to all sorts of negative places. I call that noise.”
According to Coates, this noise is one of the biggest inhibitors to people applying themselves and truly enjoying whatever it is they’re working on, be it music, art, or any number of creative endeavors.
He’s personified this noise into a character he calls The Practice Monster, a green plush toy capped with a yellow beanie that’s become the mascot for his talks, of which there are two: Calming the Practice Monster, and Calming the Monster Within.
Coates advises teachers and parents to stop making assumptions and start asking questions.
“We make huge assumptions as adults, who are coming from a place of power ... you need to ask (kids) questions in order to understand how they see the world,” he says, adding that once you understand where a young person is coming from, you can help make learning fun.
“Create the fun, results will come,” he adds. “Creativeness comes from a place of curiosity, adventure, and excitement. Not fear.”
Coates has already delivered his talks over 30 times across Canada, in cities like Victoria, Vancouver, Regina, Thunder Bay, Pembroke, and Toronto. He hosted a local speaking engagement in Stratford on April 14 at Knox church, with proceeds shared with The Water Project for Ethiopia.
It is Coates’ hope that he can one day take Calming the Monster Within around to schools all over Canada, helping both kids and teachers find the best way to tap into a creative vein. He also provides private coaching on how to make agreements within a musical team, and still finds time for piano and voice coaching.
“Whether you’re happy or sad, you’re worthy to be who you are,” says Coates.