I’ll admit to anyone that cares to ask that this year has been the most challenging of my career, but not for the reasons that you might think. I accepted a “planning time” position in my school (a role where I go around and provide scheduled, contractual release time for individual teachers) with the idea that I would be able to intensify the use of our 28-keyboard Yamaha lab, and breathe some life into our school’s grade 4-8 music program. As the year began to unfold that plan began to change dramatically, and I have found that most of my planning time coverage has been in the primary grades—an area of the elementary school with which I have very little experience.
So, for the majority of my 28th year of teaching, it would be safe to say that I have been working well outside my comfort zone. But I’ve done my best to be open to the experience, attempting to use it as a learning opportunity and a chance to round out my knowledge and understanding of this place we call school!
On Friday, a group of 20 Kindergarten students sent me a very clear message about what was important to them. As I arrived in their classroom, guitar in hand, ready to kick back and sing some silly songs about wheels, buses, monkey, beds and ants wearing rubber pants (!), young Alicia confidently raised her hand and reminded me, “You told us last time that we would be going to the keyboard lab this week.” This was followed by a chorus of “Yeah, we want to go to the keyboard lab.”
“Right”, I said, “Everyone line up at the door!”
The keyboard lab is set up so that each student has their own instrument, a set of headphones with attached microphone and a connection to the main control module at the front of the room where, at the push of button, I am able to listen in to what they are doing. The system also allows me to play music through their headphones and on a set of speakers at the front of the class.
As the students were busy delighting in their exploration of sound and rhythm, I pulled up a YouTube version of Shakira’s “Waka Waka” (This Time For Africa). The song has a wonderfully engaging rhythmic quality—it’s very difficult not to smile when you hear it!
As I started to bring the song up in the children’s headphones, heads around the room started to pop up, bodies started to move and broad smiles began to appear on many of their faces.
Then, all of a sudden Frankie, who was sitting in one of the middle rows of keyboards, got up out of his chair and began to dance spontaneously behind his keyboard. Very soon after, Frankie was joined by three other students and within a few seconds, all 19 students were out of their seats dancin’ and movin’ to the music.
But then something quite unexpected happened. By the time the song had reached the 1:30 mark, the entire class had organized itself into a continuous line, winding its way around the room, between the rows of keyboards, landing at the classroom door with a final ”clap” just as the song finished!
Flash mobs are common sights in public spaces these days. Well-organized and highly choreographed, the best of them seem to pale when compared to the pure joy and responsive spontaneity that I experienced on Friday with that group of four and five year-olds.
As tempting as it might be to want to interpet this experience and bring some broader meaning to it, I’ll leave you with the image in all of its innocence and simplicity hoping that it makes you smile!