I ended five glorious days of teaching at the United World College Singapore East Asia School (longest school title ever!) yesterday. The kids started to recognize me, either asking about my rubber chicken as I passed by in the hall or patting Juba or making the motions to our “building a mountain song.” Some even remembered me as the “To Stop the Train” guy from last year. “Make yourself memorable” is my advice for all teachers and with a little help from my friends, (see last blog), looks like I’ve managed to do that.
The kids in general were marvelous. Real children with children’s energy and joy, but also polite, focused and respectful— a bit more than my kids back in San Francisco! I learned two new cool clapping plays from them—Tic Tac Toe and High Low Piggalow and loved playing two piano concerts for them: one with a Jazz theme and one with the story of my childhood piano lessons and what they were missing. The teachers were likewise hard-working dedicated folks and we had a grand time playing Marko Skace on professional marimbas in seven different modes and seven different meters.
So on Saturday, I decided after five full days of work it would be a good time to—give a 6-hour workshop! Thanks to Paul Grosse who organized it, some 45 Singaporeans mostly working in the public schools (and some 40 turned away!) came on their day off to climb another inch up the mountain of inspired teaching and what a grand time we had! A truly spirited group, quite quick with some challenging body percussion, great blues soloists on the Orff instruments and fun dancers in our Conflict Resolution Oxdansen dance. I got to speak firmly and honestly about the disaster in my country relating it to the work we were doing now, in this moment, and I felt a strong quality of sympathetic listening. There were two people who came who asked if I remembered them from a four-hour workshop in 2008 and miraculously, I did!
After the workshop, off I went to dinner with four of the future Board Members of Orff Singapore and wasn’t that fun! Of course, being Singapore, we went to the mall and had out choice of cuisines. Settled for some good Japanese food and had a rollicking good discussion about pedagogy sprinkled with gossip from the Orff network worldwide. (Anyone’s ears burning?) We also talked about future Singapore possibilities and the excitement was tangible, especially the thought of me getting to bring my whole Pentatonics Jazz group! Let’s hope.
And now, just as I conquered jet lag, we will be companions again as I turn back home for a 15-hour flight. Before I turn for a blessed non jet-lagged sleep, some little odds and ends:
• In one class, I gave the same task to a group of 4th grade girls and a group of boys and asked them to comment on what they noticed. One astute girl said, “The girls were more organized. The boys were more reckless.” Brilliant! And, by the way, they both came up with great dances at the end.
• I moved hotels and my new one, the Park Rochester, boasted of a robot who would deliver your room service. Too creepy for me to even consider.
• A Singapore newspaper listed the most heavily trafficked cities in the world. Not surprisingly, L.A. was first and New York was second. But depressingly true, San Francisco was 4th!!! In the world!
• In order to buy a car in Singapore, you have pay some $30,000 (US) just for permission to buy the car. Which will cost (a small one) some $25,000 more. I repeat. $30,000!!!! And it expires every 10 years! Well, that’s one way to keep traffic down. Or one way to keep the rich folks with the privileges.
• Driving around, my hosts told me I was in West Singapore. I asked, “What sets it apart from the other neighborhoods? Oh, I see —it has some high-rise apartments and malls!” Ha ha!. Makes me appreciate the uniqueness and character of San Francisco neighborhoods.
• Talking with the teachers, it seems like the Singapore Educational Bureaucracy is awash with initials and acronyms designed to keep teachers occupied jumping through hoops so that they don’t have time to actually teach with and to their passion. Sigh. The same all over. But nice sense of resistance from the teachers I talked with. That’s not always the same all over.
Thanks, Singapore, for a memorable six days. I have a feeling I’ll be back.