Friday, October 10, 2014

Year 5: Week 6 – Week In Review

There wasn’t a lot of playing music during 8th grade band class, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We joked around, watch some international speed-walking competitions, discussed how the past couple weeks had gone and then finally got around to actually playing our instruments. Was it the most productive class musically? No, but if simply creating great music was my mission I wouldn’t be teaching middle school band.

My instinct was to get mad when my 3rd graders giggled at the off-key, shrill recording of a Native American octogenarian singing a chant. I felt it was important for them to hear an authentic recording of this chant and while it wasn’t a good example of singing technique, it was an important representation of this culture. Before we listening to this recording I told them that some of them might feel like giggling and that was ok, but they needed to stifle themselves and I would be asking them why the were laughing.

Some of my student did smile a giggle while listening to the singing, so we talked as a class why someone might laugh at this recording. They had very honest reasons: her accent sounded funny, it was unfamiliar, the words sounded silly, and I didn’t understand what she was saying. I validated their reasons and talked about how sometimes when I’m uncomfortable, I giggle, but its important to move past that. The second time we listened to the recording, no one was laughing and they dived deep into the chant learning the words and the melody and captured the mood of the music.

The beginning of the school year 6th grade music is crazy. We voice test students and have them try to play all of the band instruments. After this process the students choose between band and choir. After that the band students need to rent instruments and then we begin teaching the kids how to actually play the instrument . . . kind of. Last week was spent teaching the kids how to open their cases right side up and how to put their instruments together. This week we finally got to producing a great tone and learning couple notes.

Susan wasn’t doing anything wrong on the clarinet, but she felt like she was a failure. While all of the other clarinet players were getting a nice low dark tone, she kept playing the higher octave of the instrument. My first three suggestions didn’t work, but after one crazy idea, a metaphor that barely made sense, she produced a beautiful rich dark tone. Susan wasn’t sure how great her sound was but I think she got the idea when I jumped out of the chair and jumped in joy.

A spent almost all of my prep time responding to one parent’s email. Is this any way to balance my time between the families of the almost two hundred students that I teach? Yes. Being fair doesn’t mean that every family gets the same thing from me every day. We give to our parents according to what they need and sometimes one parent needs more time than others.

The best part of bringing Ollie to school for our annual County Fair was when he met the 8th grade girls. As we approached the 8th grade atrium, I helped Ollie stand up on the ramp leading up to the where the 8th graders were gathered. One of the girls recognized Ollie from pictures I had shared, announced “OMG!! It’s LITTLE TANG!!!” Then a group of about twenty girls rushed towards Ollie. They all stopped about two feet away from Ollie creating an arc around him, and kneeled and crouched down to greet him. As they smiled at him, and reached out to him, he stood laughing in delight at the attention.

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