Monday, February 29, 2016

Parenthood: Week 141 - Visiting Ollie's Class

I’ve taught a 150-piece high school marching band. I’ve conducted the Northwestern University Basketball Pep band. I’ve taught students with special needs how to read. I’ve directed my entire school community in song and with little preparation I’ve given speeches in front of 70 eight graders.

Teaching has brought me into many different situations in my life, which is one reason I love my profession. But it’s fatherhood that brought me in front of a class of toddlers.

As a teacher, I’ve been blessed with amazing parent volunteers, so when Ollie’s school encouraged parents to volunteer, I was eager to give back. We signed up to bring food for the class pet, and brought a dish to the family potluck. When I realized that I had a couple days off when Ollie was in school, I volunteered to come into Ollie’s classroom and do my music teacher thing for Ollie’s class.

I’ve taught groups of students from ages 4 and up and I live with a toddler, but I have never taught a group of toddlers.  I worked on a couple songs together, packed some little bell shakers for the kids and brough my guitar.

As I walked in towards Ollie’s classroom, I heard the students coming in from recess and transitioning to being inside. Ollie saw me and gave me a smile but then turned his attention to his boots. He took them off along with his jacket and hat and hung them up in his cubby with a focus and purpose that I’ve rarely seen at home when it comes to transitioning from being outside.

Along with Ollie, we went into this classroom and I settled in on the carpet in the back of the room. As I sat there with my guitar, Ollie’s classmates started coming in, and sat in front of me. I looked up at Ollie’s teacher and said “I’ll start with something calm, since the just came in from recess,” and she replied, “You really are a teacher, aren’t you?”

I improvised a call and response song about animals in their environment and added some hand motions. The students were responsive but they were unsure of what to do with me. Ollie has his back turned to me, but he was singing along.

We did a song about doing certain movements and then stoping. I sang “Aiken Drum” and asked for suggestions of different kinds of food, some of which weren’t food like “plastic,” but I went with it anyways and we had some fun shaking the little bell instruments I fast and slow.

I tried to really focus my attention around the room and not focus too much on Ollie.  I was worried that he would get confused and want to sit on my lap as I tried to teach. But he behaved as if I was any other teacher.

We told Ollie a couple days earlier that I was going to come into his class with my guitar and play music. Ollie was really excited about this as it was all he was talking about at school during the days leading up to my visit.

After I was done, Ollie explained to one of his friends that I was going to take him home. She tried to tell him, while patting him on the back with care, that he was staying for lunch, but Ollie explained with pride that I was taking him home.

As I was putting Ollie into his car seat, I told him how much I enjoyed bringing my guitar and playing music for his class.  I told him “Ollie, I am so proud of you. You are doing such a good job at school!”

Ollie responded with a smile, “I’m proud of you too daddy.”

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