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.

1 comment:

nortonmiddaugh said...

Oof! You've hit on some really important points. And I know that my answers depend a LOT upon whether I've gotten enough sleep; if things are going well otherwise in my life; if I'm not cold or hungry (or in need of the toilet). 'Cause sometimes you just need them to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.

Of course, my kids are at least ten years older. . .

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on these issues, as you've had time to let them percolate.