Monday, September 25, 2017

The Perfect Lesson


Nothing is more damaging to real education than “the perfect lesson.” The fantasy that there is a formula lesson with required keywords, one-size-fits-all beginnings and endings and of course, the necessary dose of electronic technology, means that there are teachers not watching and responding to real kids, teachers following someone else’s rules instead of dreaming their own unique lesson plan, teachers agreeing to remove the stamp of their personality and their own way of thinking and imagining and doing. And “all of the above” shuts down anything approaching inspired education.

But yesterday I taught the perfect lesson.

Now I’m not going to package it or market it or sell it as THE perfect lesson, but it was A perfect lesson and it came from the combination of detailed thinking, passion for the subject and 42 years of classes behind it. Not easily transferable. But the details are worth noting for any of you teachers out there and the larger ideas behind each step in the lesson likewise.

If you’re not a teacher, you don’t care about the details and if you are, I’d have to charge you money to reveal them. Ha ha! But besides having a few great pieces of material that have been thoroughly worked over by both kids and adults for decades and a clear plan of how to get everyone from Point A to Point Z, they were little things that had a big effect. Like playing the xylophone parts with your fingers first before being granted mallets ( avoids the chaos of loud banging while working things out while teaching some technique about releasing sound), putting the instruments in a horseshoe shape so teachers could move around easily to help kids and they were facing the band, giving them just one short phrase to play that sounds great when the whole band is playing, picking the older kids to try out some solos and of course, preparing everything thoroughly in the body and voice with partner claps, singing and movement before a single xylophone is brought out.

 As a result of all of the above, we made music every minute of the hour-plus, music that was accessible to all ages (parents and kids both participating), music that sounded great, music that slowly grew in complexity, a way of playing that truly was “play” and was fun and satisfying. On the way out, one of the delightful kids looked me in the eye and gave me a thumbs up! Yeah! His was of saying, “That was the perfect lesson!”

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