Monday, February 28, 2011


This blog is brought to you via Sir Ken Robinson. If you don't yet know about RSA animates, well, then, you're in for a treat. Go watch that (it's just under 12 minutes long) then come back here and we'll get this discussion started.

I watched that this afternoon. Sir Ken has long been an...idol? of mine. I don't tend to have massive work crushes on people all that often, but MAN I think his mind is amazing. And kind of genius, super interesting, and ooh, do you think he'd let me work with him??

Part of why I get so excited by his ideas is his sense that collaboration is both how people learn best and also what our workforce and economy are looking for now (and in the forseeable future). Collaborative environments excite me tremendously and I do my best to create a classroom environment that encourages and promotes that.

Today was my first class back with the French kids. We've been on half term holiday and so I've not seen them in two weeks. It's always been an awkward time for a class- an hour long music lesson after this bunch of four year olds have already spent all day in school. It's not a recipe for focus and alert attention. So I tolerate a fair bit of scurrying around and try to work with the energy and ideas that they've got.

We started in with our usual hello song to which one of the children started snorting like a pig. "Ah, I see B's turned into a pig over the holiday! Shall we all sing like a pig?" So we oinked through the hello song. I asked some of the other children what they had turned into over the break and we snapped like crocodiles, snorted like pigs (again), and barked like puppies. B. then curled up into my lap. I took that as an opportunity to see if I could remember the words to "rock a bye baby" or not. Part of me was wanting to take cues from the children and use whatever they offered. To "yes, and..." what they brought to class. Another part of me was hoping that lullabies would, well, lull them if not to sleep, then at least to a calmer frame of mind.

The thing that *really* gets me about the second half of this story is that we were songwriting today. It was meant to be a collaborative creative process (and largely was) and even with that intent, with that idea in my head and having watched this video this morning, I still ended up trying to get them to fit into a box.

B. doesn't speak a whole lot of English. He clearly enjoys class, and he clearly has a lot of energy. Does he have ADHD? I would be surprised, which doesn't mean that he focuses all that easily or that he doesn't spend a large portion of the class spinning around in a circle on his bottom.

Today we worked with drums and a set of chime bars to reinforce 'Sol' and 'Mi' as well as to continue working on rhythmic solfege and writing music up on the board. I. has totally got it, she's on the ball, she pays attention, and she only spins around on the floor sometimes. (She is also four after all.) She's the only girl in our class.

B. kept playing on the drums when he'd been asked not to; I took his drum away four times or so over the course of our lesson. Yet he was the first one to come up with lyrics "sit, watch, sit and watch" Great! Really good! On pitches that we'd been using and the rhythm we'd been practicing! Fantastic!! Then came "No, no, no piano" Also, correct pitches, sung in tune, a variation on the rhythm we'd been focusing on, really really good work. Slightly concerning lyrics that you kids just came up with there, but we can definitely work with that.

But he kept rushing off over to the chairs and climbing on to the stack of them, something I never allow them to do. He would drape himself on top of the other children, take my drum, go and grab a pile of sparkles that had been left on the floor that I was holding onto until after class because of their distraction. Clearly he wanted to be doing other things, who am I to be telling him not to? (You know, besides his teacher...) B. sets off the other boys and at one point all of them were screaming and wrestling. I was frustrated, I was annoyed, I slammed my hand down on to the floor to get their attention. To scare them.

I intentionally frightened a classroom of four year olds today.


What is the ultimate goal of my class? Is it to encourage a love of music and an interest in exploring sound? Yeah. I would say so. But it is also to prepare them and give them concrete musical skills to take to their next level of lessons. I'd like them to have fun, and I would also like the kids to feel like they have ownership of their own music making. I don't want to stifle creativity, but I would also like to have the kids listen to me. And I really don't want to go around frightening small children.

There is so much more to think about here; this entry alone has about 5 threads running through it that I need to unpack more fully: my philosophy of classroom management, the nurturing of creativity and collaboration in children, rambunctious little boys versus teacher pleasing and focused little girls, entertaining versus educating (surely surely that can be the same thing??), and learning to make lessons that are engaging and fun and interesting even after a long day at school.

So much to learn.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Music Video

I got done with work early this afternoon and on my walk to the tube wrote this song. The lyrics changed a bit by the time I got home, but close enough.

I was thinking of a song for the kids to sing, but then while singing it to myself it got...bigger. So now I'm not really sure what to do with it, but I spent an enjoyable hour trying to find pictures that would go with it so I could make a little video to put on on the blog.

Hope you enjoy it!

Screwing with their little heads/accents

In year 2 singing we are doing songs about monsters. To my delight the song that we started today was “flying purple people eater” which would have gone a lot better if I’d actually known the tune before we started... but hey, one can’t have everything.

In any case because I was winging it like mad- when one of the kids called out “It sounds American!” I ran with that. I had them all cock their hips to one side like a cowboy while singing “It was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater” and then  TWANGING it up as much as possible (and maybe growling a bit) to sing “sure looked strange to me.”

A group of girls were singing the last line like that on the way down the stairs to lunch and I chortled to myself.

My work here is done. (The original picture can be found here )


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Barren, Barren Blog

Continuing with alternative ways of letting you know what I've been up to, here are some random extracts from my diary! [Ed. 'Daily Planner,' remember?]

Jan 18
8:15 school
1pm meeting with head of EYFS
2pm Sarah concert/Liverpool St
4pm Mer and Sarah- take over the world
7:30 yoga
9:30 skype Nik

Jan 19
8:15 school
CV to Rob! Tonight!!
7pm pints and planning Fire-Hazard

Jan 20
8:15 school
6:30 Toni
dinner with Linda
Jez meetup!

Jan 29
Take care of Muffy! [Ed. Muffy is Mer's kitten]
10:15 Music Workshop
6pm Marissa's housewarming!

[Ed. An email I received the following Monday regarding the workshop
"Dear all

The composition workshop last Saturday was a success!
Thanks to Casey and the students for their work!

Hereafter the video of the final performance: "]
Feb 2
8:15 school
9am EYFS meeting
11am lesson observation
Russian lunch! sign up!
7pm Fire-Hazard Pints and planning!
Send CPD participants email! Do I need the djembe?
Feb 3
8:15 school
12:20 mtg with Headmistress
Impro Show! Arrive by 8:30! Aieee!
Feb 4
6:30 Gwyn- take over the world
Feb 5-6
CPD weekend (meet Dutch folks at 9:50)
Harrow! (Call Ruth!)
Nik @ Night
This week we've got another Improv show (Thursday! 9:30! If you're in London you should really come! It's only £5! And we might even be funny!) And this weekend is Heist take 2 at the Old Police Station. (Sold out in 4 hours! Woah...) And school is trucking along (we've planned an open music day AND a performance/recital thing for next term!)

What you don't see listed in my diary is my daily ohmygodwhatamIgoingtodonext*year*???? freakouts. I try not to document those too much...
Busy busy busy bee.

I love my Vegetable Box

They tend to send us free things each week or every other week. It's a good thing. I know they're doing it to keep us happy and keeping us subscribing to the boxes. You know what? IT'S WORKING!

Luscious, tasty vegetables; a bottle of awesome un-homogonized milk, and this week? A cookbook.

(Have I told you how perfect the carrots are? They're perfect.)

Poor Neglected Blog...

This blog is practically an abandoned lot at this point, so bereft of recent entries is it.

Since I seem to be using up more of my writing juice in texts to Nik I thought I would share some of them with you. (Self indulgent and a bit silly? Why yes! Yes it is! But you get a blog entry so hush!) (Also, can we all just heave a collective sigh of relief that I have unlimited texts? Because otherwise I would be in big trouble phone bill wise.)

Sent 7-Feb-2011 15:26:17
Playing with static electricity and an acrylic scarf = fun

Sent 7-Feb-2011 12:59:00
No yoga tonight, my teacher's partner's father just died :(

Sent 7-Feb-2011 12:52:36
I. has just stolen my diary [Ed. That's 'daily planner' for you all not up on BritSpeak] and is complimenting my handwriting and doodling. Now she and her seat partner are colouring on the first page because she was *shocked* (and possibly a little bit offended) that it was blank. How lucky am I/these kids?? Our bus has been driving along Embankment and is now trying to get through Trafalgar square before driving along St. James park and the palace before getting back to school. IN THE SUN! Freaking magic.

Sent 7-Feb-2011 12:40:22
All the other teachers have sat themselves at the front of the bus thereby leaving two classes to fend for themselves so they're all screaming and falling out of their chairs. Do I try to police them or just let it go? I'm defaulting to just playing with the kids...well, that and texting you! The concert was really interesting, seeing how the LSO put the whole thing together. So much sun! It feels like spring! Can we go on a picnic/ramble when the weather gets nice?

Sent 7-Feb-2011 10:33:14
On a bus! Going to the Barbican with a load of Year 1 kids who keep singing the songs for the concert, they know the words really well! These kids were my first nursery tykes and I kind of love them. Plus, the sun is shining and one of them keeps telling me random animal facts, like did you know that the humpback whale has longer fins than even the blue whale? Or that German shepherds are stronger than wolves?Apparently these things are so...I like hanging out with these kids. Already this week is better than last!

Sent 6-Feb-2011 23:32:00
I'm still a good 15 minutes from home...The pub was much fun. One of my favourite people from level two improv has shown up again and he elicits the most fascinating stories from people. He just goes ahead and asks the personal questions and then people(English people even!) actually answer them! It is great fun to be around.

Sent 6-Feb-2011 23:17:04