Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 9: The Plan

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned when you are a teacher.  Every week, I make lesson plans for the classes I teach and almost every single lesson I teach varies from the plans that I make.

Now it may seem like that I’m just really bad at planning but that’s not really the case and if you ask around the only teachers that you find that teach exactly as they prescribe in a lesson plan are people who aren’t very good teachers.

You can plan for a lot of things but you can’t plan for everything. You don’t know what students have happening at home, you don’t know what just happened the class before and you don’t know how exactly how your students are feeling. Even after I teach the same group of students for months, you can never predict what they are going to bring to the table, so if you are truly teaching them and being responsive to them, you have to willing to change your plans.

My plan was for my three fifth grade classes to learn two different songs. One class was going to compose percussion parts, one class would learn instrument parts and the other class would sing. The second song would have a similar arrangement but the classes would switch jobs.  After a couple weeks for all three classes would come together and put these parts together. This all sounds simple enough.

Well, a bunch things didn’t go as planned. Composing percussion parts worked great for one of the songs and for the other song, not so well. There were three attempts by that class to compose parts and it just didn’t work out. The instrumental parts for the first song had to be modified because they just weren’t gelling together and I had to cut a section out of the second piece because it wasn’t working with the instrumental parts.

What you just read probably made no sense, the point is though, I had make a lot of changes. Every single time I made a change it made the prospect of putting all the parts together seem more intimidating. I felt that every time I was changing part of the plan it was derailing the quality of the song when we put it together. That concern was compounded by the idea of having to teach 57 fifth graders in a room designed for 19 with two-thirds of the students having instruments in their hands.

The day before our the rehearsal I asked one of the fifth grade classes, “what is the point of our group rehearsal?” The first students said that it was to learn the other parts. The second student said it was to prepare for our performance and the third student said it was to have fun.”

I had made all of these plans but somewhere I lost sight of the overall goal to have students have positive interactions with music and through challenging musical development enjoy music on a deeper and more meaningful level which in fifth grade speak is “to have fun.”

I threw out my original plan for the group rehearsal and simply planned to have fun. With fifty-seven fifth graders crowded into the music room on a Friday afternoon, we made some beautiful music and shared a wonderful moment together.

I love it when a plan comes together, but sometimes I love it even more when it doesn’t.

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