There's always space for more tykes, right? Well, now on some Sundays each month I trek all the way out to Harrow to be a Kodaly/singing teacher and theory teacher for a studio of 3-8 year old Suzuki violin students. The 1.5 hour schlep each way? Totally worth it. Goodness, that was fun.
There are two groups of children, the beginner and generally younger A group; and the older and more advanced B group. The teacher whose studio this is is also Dalcroze trained, so she's taking care of that with half the group while I've got the other half for singing. It's meant to be Kodaly based, but I know very little of that- so we're just doing a lot of singing instead. (Close enough.)
I started with the older B group where I began teaching a song I learned in an Orff workshop (bringing all sorts of music education strands together!), it's a Japanese dancing game that is excellent for working on both a sense of pitch and sense of rhythm. Actually I didn't start with that, first we talked about how all of the notes have names (Do Re Mi, etc.) and that we would use two of those to learn each other's names. So we sang this "hello" taunt (it's really just a chant on two pitches, but since it uses only Sol and Mi it ends up sounding like playground teasing: "nyah nyah nyah nyah" You know.) We even used Kodaly hand positions! (Though that is really the extent of my knowledge right there.)
Then we moved into the Orff dancing song and I had them bounce tennis balls around the circle (though passing is a skill they don't have yet, so really just a group of them bouncing the tennis balls while everyone else sings) which is a Dalcroze thing to do. All this for a Suzuki studio! Music education theories ALL OVER THE PLACE!
Suddenly my 40 minutes with them were done and in trooped a group of 3-5 year olds. Well, hello there age group I have two years of experience with! Not gonna lie, I kind of made up my lesson plan as I went along. I figured to get started I'd do my favourite vocal warm up- The *MAGICAL* Stew Pot (I just made up that name. Right there.) which is a miming game that works on phonics sounds as well as warming up the voice and the jaw. Children choose what to throw into the soup pot (this group was the most reasonable I'd ever had- all were thoughtful soup ingredients; no Christmas trees or chairs or dragons to be found. That being said the soup did contain noodles, pasta, AND spaghetti. If I remember correctly, all three of which were offered by the same girl at different points.)
We then did the same hello business with Sol and Mi and, because I had the picture cards with me, we did the same fairy tale based Do You Know The Story song that I've been doing at school. I love the Drunken Sailor tune, and the the picture cards! They're so brightly coloured!
Suddenly those 40 minutes were over as well!
One of the mothers came over to where I had been sitting on the floor with the children and bent down so that her face was inches from mine, "You're a very good teacher," she said, in such a stern voice that for a second I didn't understand that she wasn't cross with me. "You have them..." and here she gestured to her hand. I was honoured. And belatedly realized that I hadn't even had to tell any of the children to settle down or to stop poking their neighbor. I think I want to work with Suzuki trained children all the time. They were brilliant.
A ten minute break later and the older, group B were back in my room for theory. I went ahead and asked them as many questions as I could think of, drawing on a laminated, blank piece of paper I was grateful I'd taken with me. (Portable white boards are useful things to have...) Yes to clefs, no to key signatures, yes to note names, no to time signatures. Guys, I have be dying to teach theory for ages now. I'm so excited about this class. I ended up dividing the class into two, setting up a tic-tac-toe/naughts and crosses board made up of various note values and letting each team choose where they wanted to go. If they could answer some questions I thought up on the spot about those notes- then they could put their marker down.
In practice, they always got it right because if they didn't I would pause the game and make sure everyone understood (either through another diagram or through walking it out (yay Dalcroze!) or through verbal/aural explanation). They were clever enough in playing the game that it was a draw (as all good tic-tac-toe games are) and then those 40 minutes were done as well.
I caught the wrong bus, took it to the end of the line and back again while trying to get to the first of the trains that would get me home. It is a mission to get there, but THIS. THESE are the kids I want to teach. These are the kids I've been waiting to teach.
I had a freaking wonderful first day.