Wow, we were all so excited to get back into our classrooms and see our students. I shed so many tears March 2020, through all last school year, and I would be lying if I said I had not shed a tear or two this year. Teaching is hard, the pandemic made it harder. The good news is you’re not alone. This is not only happening in your room, your campus, your district or even your county or state. This is happening all over the US, and I would imagine the world.
As much as we do not want to admit it, what happens in our classrooms is greatly impacted by what happens in the world around us. Our students are amazing, resilient humans that have been through so much. My district used the analogy of all of us being “in the same boat” and why that isn’t true. Some of our students weathered the storm in a canoe, some a sailboat, and some a yacht.
When I welcomed my students this year, I gave no thought to this analogy. Surely, my kids would be ready to jump into making music. Surely, they missed me as much as I missed them. Surely, they would be excited to join all the clubs, instrumental ensembles, all the things! No. No, they weren’t Their stamina isn’t what it used to be. They’re tired. Tired of just surviving.
So, I revisited the district’s analogy. I realized more than half of my campus weathered this ongoing storm in a canoe and they are traumatized, tired, and socially inept. None of these new traits are their fault but are a result of the mass trauma we are all going through right now.
What now, Analisa? I’m really struggling. I want to quit.
1. Meet your student where THEY ARE not where YOU WANT them to be.
My students are about a grade level and a half “behind”. I just did a third-grade lesson in fifth grade, and they loved it! They laughed, they played, but most importantly, they learned. Yes, they learned rhythms that I typically teach third graders, but they don’t know that, nor do they need to know that. Will they be ready for middle school music by the end of the year? I don’t know yet, but they’re happy and healthy, that’s what matters most right now.
2. Throw your IPG, YAG, BOY/EOY Assessments and whatever other acronyms you can think of, out the window.
I normally follow my IPG (Instructional Practice Guide) closely. I monitor where my students are, what they should be learning, where we are in the Orff process in relationship to my district/state expectations. This year I’ve had to readjust my YAG (Year at a Glance) and assess along the way to check for knowledge gaps. My kids are very strong at rhythms. Melody, elements of music and movement are lacking quite a bit. It makes sense that it is these objectives that are lacking as those are difficult to translate through a screen. We need to be okay with re-teaching concepts from a few years past. Our kindergarteners are the only ones that might be on track right now if they aren’t being held back by social skills and developmental delays due to lack of pre-school for some of them.
3. Focus on social emotional learning while you’re making music
I completely had a first-grade lesson go an opposite direction this last week, with my fine arts coordinator in the room. Now he was in the room just to hang out and see what we’re up to and just check up, no formal evaluation or anything like that, but the lesson went off the rails. I had taught this lesson three times already to my other first grade classes and had my pacing down pat. Then it happened. These little ones had a different idea in mind. They weren’t naughty or even off task, but they were very needy. I had to slow my pacing way down, give very explicit instructions in a part of the lesson I hadn’t planned on them struggling with, and model a ton. This took up time, time that I hadn’t expected to lose so I rushed the instructions on their composition pumpkins. Their little pumpkins that were supposed to have So/Mi teeth to play along to this week, basically have teeth with no melodic contour at all. It kind of became an art project rather than a composition. They don’t know that we messed up nor do they probably care. We had a blast, coloring, chatting about Halloween, and building those relationships that everyone keeps talking about. I explained to my fine arts director that I will most likely just adjust their lesson a little bit this coming week and I’ll give them pre-made jack-o-lanterns for them to play on Boomwhackers. I wasn’t going to sweat it. We had a moment, we grew closer together, we complimented each other’s color choices, we talked about being excited to trick-or-treat “like normal” again and they were happy. My job was done.
If you take anything away from this blog, take away this fact, you are not alone. You may be the only teacher on your campus that teaches music, but there are so many educators going through what you are going through. The kids are disrespectful, yes, I teach organic children, too. I believe if we adjust our content, our approach, and meet them where they are, the respect will return.
Sing! Say! Dance! Play! Care!