Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finding Inspiration

Are your fourth graders already teenagers, or is it just me? They're the oldest kids at my school, and it's their first taste of senioritis. The problem's OCTOBER...and they're TEN. I love them. I've known them since they were five. This week, they ate my lunch. My sweet friends reminded me I am a good teacher and that I am showing them God's love even when it's difficult...especially when it's difficult. I realized some of the problem might be that my focus has changed. When I started teaching *eleven years ago,* I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, but I had so much passion. Now that I feel more confident, I have been trying to concentrate on improving my data taking and making sure they really know everything that they're supposed to know. That isn't wrong, but maybe the focus is wrong.

So I reexamined my purpose: to inspire them and take care of them. I realized my lessons for next week were more about data and making sure they knew how to read rhythm, but maybe the plans lacked the inspiration my kids need.

I thought about what inspires them. Music inspires them - singing songs and playing instruments - not reading rhythms, even with an awesome game. I can teach them rhythms as we go along; they've got the basics. What they need is a reason to come and enjoy music. With that in mind, I began rewriting my lessons.

First, I looked for a song that would be relevant to them and to the situation that we are in right now. I found this song: "We All Need Peace" by Karl Hitzemann out of the Music K-8 Magazine Vol. 27 No. 1. I haven't shown it to them yet, but I'm hoping I can inspire them to think beyond their difficult situations and early teenager tendencies. I'll let you know what they think about it.

The other thing I decided to do was to start playing recorders. (Here are the recorders I order:PERIPOLE Angel Soprano Halo Recorder Model PB6000They are amazing - never break and sound like a real instrument.) They all love playing instruments and have been begging to start. Since 2005, I have been doing "Recorder Karate" with my kids . They LOVE it. Every time they can perform a piece from the collection, they earn that belt. The competitive sports kids love it and participate when some of them wouldn't bother if not for the pride of earning those belts. I'll be doing Recorder Karate again this year, but before I start, I want to try something new. 
Here is my thought: When starting recorder, you know how all the right handed kids (almost everyone!) want to put their right hand on top? Some argue, some forget twenty times in a class even when I mark their hand with a cute sticker, and some never get it completely. When I first started teaching, it didn't seem like a big problem, but the last few years, it has turned into a real issue. Last year, I had students playing at the concert with their right hand on top after practicing for months! I have a theory that might change that. Start with the foundation of "G" (thumb [T], 123 on left hand). Don't play B or A for a while. Add an E when the G gets easier. Yes, it will squeak terribly for a while. But doesn't it squeak some anyway?

So this is my plan for the week: 
1. Start class with the inspirational new song. Build it up. Let them know this could inspire their families and the community. 
2. Hand out recorders like I do every year and play G and E instead of BAG. I'm using rhythm flashcards that I made, and we'll be reading rhythms while we squeak away blissfully (I hope). We will not play a single B or A. It might be a struggle, but if a week or two of struggle creates a year of not saying, "Switch hands," or "Left hand on top," won't it be worth it? 

I love my kids and want to inspire them. Of course, I am a teacher and will do my job to teach them what they need. But they need more than that. As the song says, "We all need love...hope... [and] peace." I intend to do my part to help my kids feel that love, hope and peace.

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