This past week in guitar we played with Noteflight, an online, cloud-based notation software program (I LOVE cloud based programs). We have been exploring rhythms, and how they are often represented on paper. (I say *often* because rhythmic notation is NOT universal and is just ONE way to visualize beat and sound). Of course, we practiced creating our own rhythms by jamming out in class. I would lay down a pattern and students would fill in the blanks. I actually got this idea years ago when I taught a world drumming class. This is a great way for students to create a pattern, listen to each other, and figure out how their pattern can fit into the greater groove.
Anyway, part two of learning about rhythms was to create a melody using tabs. What we have learned in guitar is that tabs often only give us part of the information. So, if you don’t know how the song goes, or don’t have access to a way to listen to the song, you might be out of luck. That being said, sometimes, and more often now, tabs are accompanied by rhythms, but they aren’t always clear as the notehead is not always shown and the difference between quarter notes and half notes can be confusing. Exhibit A:
You will notice in the second and fourth measures there are only three notes, so by process of elimination, there is a half note in there. And, we see that there is a space after the third note, so that would indicate that it is likely a half note, or a rest. But if you are just starting out, it is a little unclear, so I have the students add a rhythm line so they can see the actual rhythm. Exhibit B:
Much more clear and makes sense to the students as well. It IS a bit cluttered, but for the sake of the visualization, these has helped students visualize and internalize the pulse a bit more.
I should note that while technology can be a great tool, we cannot assume that the students that we work with are digital natives. Yes, they are on their phones and they know how to take amazing selfies, and their texting skills are top notch, but this does not mean they know how to send an email, sign-up for a program, create a log-in name and password. Those are skills that have to be taught. Understanding this, I created a tutorial that students referenced as I went through the sign-up process on my projector. Additionally, when I had students share their creations with me, I showed them step by step how to share and how to send an email. Indeed, I teach high school students, but their backgrounds are so varied that it is not safe to assume they even understand the need for email. In this time I also taught basic email etiquette.
Back to Noteflight and why I use it in class. I think it is an excellent opportunity for students to explore creating their own music. After we get settled in the first day, I just let them explore the program to get familiar with how it works. Like any computer program there are some really great aspects to it, and some clunky aspects to it. For example, in this day of good drive and automatic saving, I have to remind students about ever 10 minutes to hit the save button, otherwise their work wont’ be saved. Additionally, the presence of an “undo” button doesn’t exist, so that provides some frustration as well. But, overall, it is a lovely program.
As you will see in this video, Noteflight is a great way to double check students understanding of note values as well. I had this conversation with Kowsar during class as she was working with trying to align her Tab rhythms with the rhythmic notation. She is a very quiet young lady so I tried my best to repeat what she said.
The other thing to consider when encouraging students to create is that notation can limit what they create. Students brains have the ability to create incredibly complex ideas, but their understanding of what is going on is very limiting with relationship to putting it on paper. Some students may get frustrated with this, but I do my best to try to help them figure out whatever it is they have in their mind. Some students have great ideas that include septuplets or dotted rhythms. Rather than say, “No, we haven’t learned that” I work with them and say, “Wow!! Look at what you created! That is incredible!” And it is incredible.
Additionally, I don’t tell students what sounds good or what doesn’t. That isn’t my job. This is their creation. If they are struggling with finding the next “right note” I first encourage them to noodle around and see if they can come up with something. Then if that isn’t working for them, I might noodle around until they tell me I played something they enjoyed.
The final part of this whole project is that the students will receive a hard copy of their song and practice it and play it for me. While they are working on their creations, I encourage them to play what they have written, to make sure they can play it. I show them the tempo feature which increases or decreases the playback so they can practice along. Noteflight can be a great practice tool as well.
Creating is the bedrock of what we do in all the classes that I facilitate. It is so important to me that students walk away feeling some ownership of what they have done in class. This project elicits these feelings (along with frustration, which goes along with creating) and encourages the students to continue exploring creating on their own.
After several great weeks of groups working together to come up with their own tunes, then sharing their works-in-progress with the rest of the band, we had our first day of co-teaching and co-learning. The first groupt to go was Auguste, Meredith, Sam, and Owen. They created a 12 bar blues that is in in 6/4 and has two measures of 3/2 on the V chord. Pretty damn hip if I do say so myself. And because they were NOT notating their music, I suspect this freedom allowed them to create something a bit more involved.
SO, they started teaching the band the melody the same way that I teach ear-tunes: note by note. They played a note (well, Owen did because he felt the most confident with the tune), and the band would noodle around until they got it. Then the next note, and so on and so forth. The students would get a few notes down and then Owen would play the melody in time and in rhythm, and the band responded. It took about 15 minutes for the band to *roughly* learn the tune, which really is no time at all. We asked Owen to play it by himself so the students could record it on their devices so they can listen to it and practice it at home. By the way, I also learned this tune WITH the students. It's important to be in that same vulnerable place that the students are in to show that we too can make mistakes and it is ok.
I shared with the students that this is a really messy, uncomfortable, and chaotic chaos, but that this is LEARNING and they are doing some pretty incredible work with this project. The rhythm section is already working on a pretty great intro for this tune to make it more interesting beyond the head chart. There are three other groups so there will be a total of four originals by the bands on our Jazz Central concert. I am not sure that I know of any other jazz band that has done something like this before.
I am still trying to figure how how we might go about notating this. When we I taught the band “Equinox” this past spring, it was all by ear, including the chord changes, and they performed it without music. I *think* we could do something similar-where they create their own lead sheets, but I am not sure yet. I will have to ask them what they think they might need. (Yes, I do ask the students their opinions and what they think might work best for them.)
I offer another look into the classroom in this video. Does it sound amazing? Well, as a proud teacher who watched this unfold in about 15 minutes, I would say so, but I am biased.
November 30th update: Wouldn't you know it-we played through the tune today and it sounded even better than this video. So what that tells me is that they either listened to the tune, listened and practiced, or it incubated over the past 24 hours and some lightbulbs went off :) Yay learning!
I was a featured guest writer for the "Getting Smart" blog and was then asked to be a part of a podcast on my work with ELL students!
After a VERY productive summer (Dissertation defense is HAPPENING October 18th!!) I am ready to start writing about teaching again. SO much writing happened this summer. Shout out to my writing pal, Jesse, who set up a writing group. We met each morning Monday through Friday via the interwebs. We set goals for ourselves and then wrote for two hours. I honestly do not think I would have been as productive had it not been for that writing group.
In the music education world we like to play it safe. We often stick with our people: like-minded music educators who have dealt with the same battles: budget, schedules, numbers, frustrating administrators, concerts, pep bands, etc. The list goes on and on. While our struggles are similar I find that other areas of education often have similar struggles (minus the bus being late for the state tournament basketball game).
One of my professional goals this year is to build better connections with people who are in the same profession as me. Not music educators, but other educators. I have come to realize that I have taught in the same building for four years and there are still people that I have not spoken with, or who I don’t recognize. This became apparent at a staff meeting when a bunch of us from different subjects were sitting at a table together and we had to introduce ourselves. I know for a fact that we had all been teaching in the building for at least two years.
Our building is pretty big. We have about 2,000 students and I honestly don’t even know how many staff. Each department is pretty insular, at least from an outsiders view, and I get that. We have similar interests and often similar prep hours. However, I wonder would would happen if we got out of our safe places and got to know our colleagues a bit more.
One of my hopes this year is to visit other classrooms during my prep hour and either observe or participate as a learner. There are so many amazing teachers at South working with the students in really interesting ways and engaging in conversations I could only have dreamed about as a teenager. I want to learn from my colleagues about how to be a better group discussion facilitator. I think we can learn a lot from each other, even if it isn’t in our “content” area. I would also love to go and observe the ELL classes because so many of the students I work with are EL students, I would like to find better ways in which I can connect with students with limited English skills.
I’m genuinely interested in my colleagues beyond their skills as teachers. I want to get to know them more because I think that will strengthen our community at school-a ‘theme’ that is permeating many of the discussions occurring in and out of the classroom. Community and connections are important, but they don’t just happen. We also can’t force them. They need to be sincere attempts at getting to know the person.
What professional or personal goals do you have this year? How do you think these goals will be reached? Why do you have these goals?
Poster by Ricardo Morales.
I want to thank you for everything that you have done for me. So often, at the end of the year, I receive a letter of thanks, or a hug with a thanks. I am forever grateful for those, but I wonder if you ever realize the impact you have on me. This letter is to all the students that I have worked with.
I want to thank you for challenging me in ways that have encouraged me to think differently to how I approach teaching and working with young people. I want to thank you for encouraging me, and challenging me, to not give up in the face of adversity-either when working with other human beings or with myself. Thank you for getting in my face and questioning my intentions and to whom those intentions were for. Thank you for causing me sleepless nights to consider in what ways could I change my approaches to help you succeed.
Thank you for your persistence. You have taught me that persistence is important in learning, in teaching, and in relationship building. Persistence to push me to come up with new ways to challenge you to think differently, think harder, and try new things. Thank you for encouraging me to take risks. If I didn't take risks, personal and professional, we might not have ever met, and then I wouldn't be writing this letter to you. Thank you for letting me make mistakes, and letting try again. Thank you for your patience with me as I navigate new curriculum. Thank you for letting me learn alongside with you.
Thank you for teaching me when I didn't know or understand something. I really appreciate that you are ok being the teacher sometimes because I learn a lot from you. I have learned what it means to fall down, struggle to get back up, and phone a friend for help. I have learned that sometimes the love we feel isn't from the people we think it should come from, so instead we have to rely on others for that. I have learned that sometimes, school just isn't the most important thing and that day to day survival is what matters most.
I want to thank you, my students, for pushing me to be better. I have watched as you work with your peers with empathy and compassion. I have watched you challenge each other in friendly and critical conversations. I have watched you grapple with situations that are far out of your control and are bigger than what you should have to deal with in your young years. I have learned that humanity does exist and that we can all be better if we stop, listen, and learn from each other.
I want to thank you for keeping me humble. Too often we pride ourselves in getting you to work, but you have kept me working. You demand a lot from me, always asking for more and wanting to do more. It's amazing. You are all incredible human beings.
Finally, I want to thank you for letting me walk beside you as your teacher. We don't always get a whole lot of say in who we work with, but each and every single one of you has taught me how to be a better person. I hope you know that.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the NIME6 (Narrative Inquiry in Music Education) in Boston. My dear friend and colleague, Nick McBride, and I presented our personal narratives on our reflections on narrative research. I also attended a workshop by Patricia Leavy who shared with ideas on writing and encouraged us to write at least ten minutes every day. So, here I am at school at 7:00 writing. Jazz band is done for the year, but by contract we are supposed to be here, so I guess I will take advantage of the opportunity.
Today’s post is not really about teaching tips or ideas, nor is it about research. It is about self-care. I know. . . I KNOW. Self-care is all the rage, right? Everybody is doing it! BUT WE AREN’T. Today’s post is prompted by one of the conversations that took place after the delightful Tami Draves presented a paper “Class, “FirstGens,” and Music Education.” The paper itself was wonderful, but it was the conversation that took place after the paper that caused me to pause: self-care in music education and for music educators.
We live and breathe in a society that is fueled by the hustle; fueled by 60 hour work weeks, working on the weekends, working during dinner, working all.the.time. In the discussion after Tami’s paper, we discussed how schools of music perpetuate this in a potentially unhealthy way. Undergraduate music education majors attend class during the day. Between classes they practice ___ hours. Evenings are often filled with rehearsals, required concerts, more practicing, studying, and potentially a job to help pay for college. For music education students this often translates to when they come into the profession: during the day they teach, some stay after school for HOURS working with students, or grading. Many music teachers are gigging musicians in their after hours as well. Many high school music teachers find themselves at multiple pep bands during the week, musical rehearsals, district meetings….etc. OH….and sometimes teachers want to have a family, so they have to navigate the complexities of that as well.
Where does self-care fall into place in all of this? I am not talking about the occasional mani-pedi with your girlfriends, or a night of poker with the guys (sorry about the complete gender stereotypes there….). But what about taking time for YOU to bring alignment with your mind/body/spirit? Let’s be honest-this is so far off the priority list for many of us that when we realize that we need to take care of ourselves, it is often too late or we feel completely lost.
Case in point. This year has been a struggle for me. Not with school. Not with research, but with my self-care. I foolishly got myself involved in seven conferences, six of which I presented research or teaching strategies. This is just the beginning of what I overcommitted myself to and around late January/early February my body decided that it had about enough. My brain was going nonstop and my body could not keep up. This stress led me to have a resurgence of hepatitis A and adrenal fatigue. When my doctor looked at me point blank and stated, “you have to rest,” I actually replied “I am not sure I know how to rest.” Seriously. I had backed myself into a corner of constantly going that I wasn’t sure how to get myself out. It was scary. I didn’t realize what I had done because I had thought that this was the norm. It is not. Our bodies were not designed to be a work horse going all day. Our bodies, especially our major organs that deal with stress hormones, do not recognize the difference between mental/emotional/physical stress. I had ALL the stress going on. And I don’t mean “oh shit, I am so stressed out.” I felt like I was THRIVING on this. It kept me going. I felt like I was making a difference in the world. What I didn’t see, and what everyone else around me saw, was that I was starting to fall apart. In the wise words of my CrossFit coach, Logan, "Sarah, you need to chill the fuck out."
SO….self care. I have learned that simple things are REALLY important to the healing of my body, my brain, and my overall outlook. Everyday I take really big belly breaths when I start to feel anxious and that instantly centers me. Sometimes I have to take a few breaths in a row. This type of breathing brings my shoulders down, relaxes my faces, lowers my blood pressure, and reminds me to just ‘be’.
Every night I listen to a meditation to calm my brain. I never make it through because the voice is SO relaxing. In this meditation (there are a bazillion apps out there) I focus on breathing. . . again, breathing is just SO important. We often forget this when we are in the heat of a day of teaching and our shoulders rise up and we become tense.
Yoga. I used to think I needed to go to a yoga studio and get a major sweat on to receive any benefit from yoga. This is so not the case. I really love Yoga with Adriene because she is super real, her practices are very much about no perfection, self-care and self-love.
Therapy. Yep. Therapy. Talking with someone who actually doesn’t know me-someone who can look at me and my life objectively and provide some outside perspective has been super helpful.
Saying “no” and being ok with it. I’ve had the chance to turn down some opportunities recently and it has been empowering. Before I was saying ‘yes’ to everything because I was nervous that the experience would not happen again. You know what, it is ok because we can’t do everything all the time. I realized this in March that, as a perfectionist, trying to be 100% at 100% of the things I am doing 100% of the time is just not sustainable. Something will suffer.
Allowing yourself to just “be”. Damn, it was HOT yesterday. Our basement was nice and cool, so instead of cleaning and being outwardly productive, I watched two movies, stayed where it was cool, and just enjoyed relaxing. Five months ago, I would have deemed that as being lazy. Now I deem it as enjoying a day off.
Sitting in silence. As a music teacher, I spend 8 hours a day (or more) immersed in sound. Sound is everywhere. I have taken to turning off my radio on my drive home so I can just sit in silence. It is glorious.
Taking joy in the simple things around you. I really love the beauty of nature. Each morning I look outside my kitchen window, take in a big belly breath, and thank mother nature for creating such beautiful colors and sounds. This time of year is especially lovely as the birds are up bright and early, it is quiet in the morning, and flowers are starting to grow and bloom. The breath just brings it all together and just grounds me.
Some people find that journaling, walking, reading books, and other forms of exercise can be modes of self-care. As long as YOU feel better afterwards, are refreshed, feel more calm, and centered, I think you can do whatever you want.
But let’s be real here. This is super important. I would hate for anyone to go through what I experienced. I mean, it wasn’t the worse thing in the world, but it was incredibly frustrating and I am still figuring it all out. By no means am I a self-care expert. I am still on the journey and will always be on the journey. I do think it is important that we talk about these things as we can only get by on adrenaline and coffee for so long. I do think that it is important for our profession to understand that we should address these issues for the sake of the humans that are working with young humans. I do think that this is something that perhaps higher education needs to look at in how they model and practice self-care with future teachers.
I would love to hear how YOU practice self-care-even if you are not an educator. We can all learn from each other. Thank you and make sure to give your self some love today :D
Guitar 2 really took a turn the past week and a half. Students really enjoyed working in SoundTrap while they mixed the most recent album. As they were working in SoundTrap, many of them asked if we could do a project where they could create their own music. Why not? Music is music and guitar is one vehicle through which we create music.
Here's the cool thing about SoundTrap: it's cloud based, which means it is accessible on any device. There is even a SoundTrap app, so the students could access their songs via their mobile devices. It works on Macs AND PCs. Super cool.
I thought it would be fun if the students created a South High Soundscape, where recorded sounds from our school found their way into their songs. We listened to to versions of Soundscapes: Steve Reich's "Different Trains" and "City of God's Son" While these might push the envelope of a "soundscape" I thought they might provide two contrasting styles.
What the students put together is uniquely them and intriguing. When I asked them what they enjoyed about the project they replied that they enjoyed creating their own music (even if using pre-established loops), that everyone's creation was different, and there was freedom. Although-that freedom was met with a bit of anxiety at the beginning of the project because there was just SO MUCH for available for the students to work with.
Below is the project description along with some of the songs (students gave me permission to use their work.) Some students, like Diego who wrote "Doors" were very thoughtful in their approach. Diego shared that each section starts with a door sound that he recorded. He indicated that doors open and close to different sections of a school and therefore each time you hear the door in his composition, there is a new and different sounding piece. Woah...that's deep, man. (Also, this is Diego's first time being in a music class).
Please enjoy and please feel free to use this assignment in your own classroom. I believe this kind of music experience can work with ANY grade in ANY setting!
Perhaps I was naïve. I was finally sitting on the adjudicator side of the table. I had attended the Eau Claire Jazz Festival as a high school, then worked and played the festival as a college student. I brought bands to the festival (one of my students even won a scholarship to Shell Lake for outstanding musicianship), and now I was working as an adjudicator/clinician. Surely this meant I had broken down some of the barriers that women face in the jazz world. I should note that I was the only woman adjudicator and we were a pasty white bunch.
And then it happened. About four bands into the day, (all 15 or so bands were directed by men) the other two adjudicators and I were approached by the band director. (Shout out to John and Harvey-they were a blast to work with and I learned a ton watching them work with bands and tag-teaming with them). The band director shook their hands, exchanged pleasantries, gave them the scores, and walked back to his band. Yep. I was completely ignored. I muttered "did that just happen??" I was in shock. I was pissed. I honestly could not understand how this person did not see me as an adjudicator. Who did he think I was? A student aid working at the festival? (I have a bit of youthfulness to me, but not THAT much.) Maybe he saw me as one of the festival managers (perhaps a bit higher up on the ladder.) But the fact that he did not even acknowledge had me without words. I will come back to how I dealt with this.
Sexism in jazz has long been an issue. I experienced it first hand at Eau Claire in Jazz 1. Never from the guys that I played with. There was mutual respect there. (shout out to all the guys in the 2001-2002 bands-you rock!) Eau Claire does have a history of fewer females in the bands, but that generally is a reflection of the larger jazz community. I do remember playing at the Viennese Ball (a glorified prom for grown ups) wearing my red dress and playing bari, overhearing a listener refer to me as the "Title IX" of the group. I didn't understand that. I auditioned into the band. I worked my ass off to get into that band. I started out in Jazz 4 and worked my way up. I earned that seat at the table and I was invited to sit there. I worked hard and owned my hard work, despite nasty rumors that circled around about me and how I got into the band. (Keeping it classy, right?)I took lessons with Kathy Jensen (bari player extraordinaire, and spent some time touring with this guy Prince. You may have heard of him) the summer before jazz auditions to help me prepare and get me to a place where I could hang with jazz 1 ("hang" in the meaning of being able to hang musically) So to think that there were people out there that didn't know how hard I really worked to get that seat really was upsetting.
When I was in high school there were a ton of girls in our jazz band. My senior year, the saxophone section was all girls. I auditioned and played second alto in the all-state jazz band. It's not like I haven't been around this music. My dad is a phenomenal jazz musician. He actually is basically a walking encyclopedia of jazz, with an emphasis on early jazz. He coached me early on in my saxophone playing years and I was transcribing solos as early as 7th grade. I loved jazz, it was my music. (Don't make this statement more problematic than it needs to be. I identified with this music, and understood it's history and my relation, or lack there of, to the people who originated the music. I call it mine because this was the music that got me through my teen years....) It spoke to me. I was that nerdy kid that was learning all the Cannonball and Hodges solos while everyone else was digging in on the Backstreet Boys. My dad, being the jazz guy that he is, saw this passion and introduced me to the band "Diva" and bought me a book about women jazz musicians. It was in that book that I read about Ingrid Jensen, who I would then later meet when she was a guest at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival and who asked why there weren't any women in the band, and told me to "get your ass in there." So I did. I want to think that I didn't work any harder than those other guys. I worked hard because I needed to get better because that was a kick ass band.
I loved jazz in high school. I loved playing jazz, I loved soloing....it was freeing. When I was registering for classes the summer before my freshman year at Eau Claire, I remember the advisor discouraging me from signing up for jazz band. I needed to get X amount of marching band and regular band credits, along with private lessons (another blog post that needs to be written about the lack of equity that jazz receives in teacher education prep...) I was heart broken and didn't know any better. So that summer I spent most of my time getting my classical chops into shape. When I got to school in the fall, I remember walking around the practice rooms and listening to the amazing saxophonists. I came from a small school where I was a big fish in a small pond and now I was a minnow in an ocean. It was incredibly intimidating. I didn't audition for jazz band that semester, but I did the spring semester. I was disappointed that I got into jazz 4, so I took the following fall off again. But I missed it to much and ended up getting into jazz 3, then jazz 2, then....jazz 1. The first woman in about 10 years to get in the band. I also co-directed Jazz 5 with a friend. That was a great experience for so many reasons. Eau Claire is a magical place. The school is all undergraduates, but we are provided so many opportunities to play. It also is a place that allows for growth-an obvious story for myself.
So, back to yesterday. I had multiple emotions and thoughts running through my brain from "what the actual fuck" to "those students deserve better than that" to "I have to prove myself." I needed to let these young and beautiful students, and especially the girls in this band that women CAN play music. I wanted to make sure these girls know that it is ok to be a girl and be smart, beautiful, strong, confident, and create jazz. So, I marched past that band director and got to work. I had about five minutes to do something with them. So we talked about the importance of articulations and the feel. Then I gave them listening homework over the weekend. Their charts were 'inspired' (for lack of a better word) by jazz standards. I told them to go home and listen to "So What," "Lil' Darlin," and "Sidewinder." Those kids had no idea who Miles Davis or Count Basie were, and definitely not Lee Morgan. We had a good time together in those five minutes. I want to think that they took something home from that experience with me. I hope that ALL the bands we worked with saw that men and women can work together, but that women ARE capable of doing this job and doing it well.
It's going to take some time for me to process this whole experience. I am not going to give this guy any excuses. Not today. Not in 2018. This is not a women's fight. This is not just a white woman's fight. This is fight for all women to be heard and recognized. It's not just in the jazz world either, but damn, it is frustrating to see this happening to educators. Men, we need you to speak out and get with us on this. We need men to program more composers of color, and more women in their programs for concert band and jazz band. IT DOES MATTER.
Moving forward I am going to be reading some other stories to help me process this and figure out what we do next. My friend and colleague, and all around badass, Erin Holmes and I are planning on how to open up a dialogue this summer during all-state camp. BTW-she is the first woman to hold the Jazz Chair for MMEA. Like I said, a total badass, mother of three, and high school band director. I found this today, from a young jazz musician studying at the New School. This story is not unique. The comments are mostly helpful and empowering. Other articles of note include this New York Times commentary that celebrates women jazz musicians of 2017. Our very own local radio station recently highlighted 20 women jazz musicians here in the Twin Cities. But these are not isolated issues. And the women who are celebrated in the Times article and the Current blog are not being celebrated because they are just women. It is because they are strong, fierce, musical, smart, and talented. Those words can describe just about anybody (if they put the work into it). However, we do have to work *that* much harder (even in 2018) to be recognized. We are at the table. ACKNOWLEDGE us at the table. Have a conversation with us. Do not be offended if we might have more experience or understanding than you. We can learn from each other. But again, it takes both sides.
Organized chaos occurs on a daily basis in the South High guitar rooms. If you were to come into my room, you might find students working in pairs, groups of 3-4, or by themselves. You might find me working with individuals, mediating groups, or just sitting back and observing the learning that is occurring. Once in a while I may need to re-direct students to the task, but the generally rule of thumb is 80-20. Meaning, 80% of the time the students are on task, focused, and engaging in learning. 80% is a solid number and I think most them achieve that.
Today, I was inspired by the 6th hour class to start writing this blog. I am literally writing this entry while they are working in groups to put together a song. We have been working on "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons. Yesterday they listened to the song, and, as individuals, came up with their own strumming patterns. Volunteers from each class shared their patterns and we learned them from the students. I came up with an easy bass line. Today, they are working in groups to put the patterns together so they make a cohesive whole. So, one person is playing a bass line and others are creating or re-creating the strumming patterns we learned. I am watching students take on leadership roles in their groups, and other contribute their ideas. I am watching two young men work together. One young man who has struggled to find his place in class mentor another young man who has missed so much class that I barely know him. The mentor is an excellent teacher!! I am watching four girls who speak four different languages work together to figure out the song. It is really incredible. I am just sitting back and observing and watching the learning take place.
What happens when we get out of the way and let students experiment? There are eighteen different students in this class, eighteen different musical backgrounds, and eighteen different learning styles. These students are sometimes much better teachers than we will ever be, and it is important to let them take on that role.
"Remember focus on the music. Listen to what you are playing."-WOW. That just came from a student who has never had any "formal" music training. That's amazing. That is beautiful and so encouraging. I am going to steal that from him.