No, I’m not talking about the displays in department stores or the ads on TV. It’s just that the 5-year olds came to music class today and burst through the doors like it was Christmas morning and there was a pony under the tree. Such unbridled joy and jubilation, perhaps more than usual because I missed last week’s class. Or maybe I misread it and they were just so happy to see the Interns who have become their friends. But in any case, hey, it’s a pretty great way to start a class!
Of course, I could have been one of those grumpy teachers who sent them back out again with a stern reminder that we need to enter quietly in line. How sad would that be? I just grinned from ear to ear and told them, “Looks like we’re going to have a fun class!” And we did!
And along the way, they beefed up their understanding of opposites— conceptually, kinesthetically and musically— playing their way through myriad variations of One Two Tie My Shoe. In a mere 25 minutes, they spoke and moved the variations, then learned the poem as a little song prepared first on their body and in their voice and then re-negotiated on the Orff instruments. By the end, they played a little five-note melody, improvised a bit and generally had themselves a roarin’ good time mixing the pleasure of both free-play and precision work.
Earlier, a similar feeling with the 8th grade as we played our way through a couple of old ‘20’s tunes, finding out what needed fine-tuning and working on it without any judgment or shame. Another rollicking good time and another vote to throw out the notion of classroom management, behavior modifications, rewards, punishments, elaborate systems to motivate children to be good participants or measure them to weed out the “winners” from the “losers.” When the teacher enjoys each child and shows it, entices each of them to stretch, picks great material and teaches it effectively, laughs with delight at the chance to play and work together, the need for all that outside stuff dwindles and often disappears. It's community music-making at its finest.
Was it always so much fun? In some ways, yes, but never quite like this. I went through what every teacher does— kids that drove me crazy, classes that made me wish for a snow day (even in San Francisco), doubts as to my capabilities, exhausted at the end of the day. And some of this was as recent as last year and might be as close as tomorrow. But for some unaccountable reason, this Fall is all roses and no thorns. At lunch, I briefly thought: “Maybe I should just walk out the door now. Go out on a high note. How could it get any better?” But I didn’t and plan to arrive again tomorrow to find out what new joys await.
It should be a crime to get paid for such happiness, but luckily, they don’t pay me very much. So kids, I’ll see you tomorrow!