Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Lightbulb Icon

Like many teachers, I have a lesson planning book. In the early days, I would write an outline of the classes before I taught and soon changed that to writing the outline after I taught the classes. I’d keep the structure in my mind, see how it would actually unfold with each class, and then at the end of the day, write down what I did. 

And so it has gone, class after class, week after week, month after month, year after year. And every single class is written down in some 44 planning books sitting in my closet. Haven’t done the exact math, but probably some 40,000 classes there. (Maybe I should think about selling the books on E-Bay to young music teachers?)

If a class is particularly inspired, I draw a little lightbulb next to it to remind me that something happened that’s worth remembering. For example, today’s theme in pre-school singing was nonsense word songs. I began singing a verse or two of songs they knew, like This Old Man and Pat Works on the Railway and John Kenacka and asked if they noticed what they had in common. One of the five-year-olds said, “They all have funny words.” Bingo! I told them that songs sometimes have nonsense words that don’t make sense, but are delicious to say. And often in combination with words that do make sense. Like “Knick-knack paddywhack, give the dog a bone.”

On I went to teach them some new ones— Sing Song Kitty, A Ram Sam Sam, Sarasponda— and then told them the story of a funny girl named Catelina Madelina Oopa Socka Wadaleena Hogan Bottom Loganand sang her song. That led naturally into the story of Tiki Tiki Tembo Nosarembo, Chari Bari Buchi, Pip Peeri Pembo. Next week we’ll review all the songs and then fold some into the story of Rumpelstiltskin. So now there’s a double theme of nonsense words and people’s names, two different threads to stitch songs and stories together. That’s lightbulb-worthy. 

In the past few years, there have been many lightbulb moments in my green planning book. I feel the day approaching—with the kids at school— when I won’t need to remember what worked well because I will have moved on. That will feel strange. But still there are workshops to consider. 

So Tennyson’s prophecy in his poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” seems to be true: 

Come grow old with me. My best is yet to come.

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