When my 7th grade general music kids play with enthusiasm and accuracy (well... almost) and excitement, I can’t help but feel affirmation that performance based general music is definitely the way we should be teaching this class. We do important work with kids every day. We give them opportunities to make music and empower them to make “musician” a part of their identity.
I decided to add this blog to share my stories of teaching middle school general music (and chorus) as a chance to connect with other music teachers going through similar successes and challenges.
So here it is - my first blog post (ever...actually)
Today’s general music class was great. We are smack in the middle of our modern band unit and all of the kids are playing keyboards and pianos. It’s loud. But, we have a routine of “Hands Up!” when I need to get their attention. It’s silly, but...so are 7th graders. Today they were playing the Rolling Stones tune “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” I was surprised that 2 kids knew this song! The older I get the less the kids know about the Rolling Stones...or the Beatles...or even Elvis for crying out loud!
Anyway, they were nailing their 2 chords (C and F). I then gave them time and a chord chart to learn “Let it Be” on their own. The room was noisy, but I could clearly hear the chords they were supposed to play. After about 2 minutes, the volume in the room went up....and up. And this is the moment when I second guess myself and I'm unsure if I gave them too much time to learn on their own. Are they actually practicing? Are they just making noise? Are they talking to their friends about some drama at lunch? I stuck with my intuition and let them play for another two minutes. Then, HANDS UP! All the kids had their hands in the air and were ready to play.
They were great - each chord was correct and in time. The noise is part of their process...part of exploration and engagement.
Sometimes, I just have to get out of my own way. Student centered learning only happens when I move over and let them have ownership of their experience in class. Let them learn. Let them figure it out on their own. Let them struggle. Let them ask for help. Let them be resourceful. I realize that I have to flip the script...my script, and realize that I am also learning - learning how to facilitate instead of directly explain or teach when I can take a step back and let them explore. This will give them the tools to become independent musicians.