A long while ago I was lucky enough to meet the most amazing music therapist. She came to a school that I was teaching at as part of her Master’s degree. She was meant to be learning from me, as I taught disengaged kids. What actually happened was I learned far more from her than she did from me (isn’t that always the way?)…
She participated in music lessons, helping out. She was fantastic in the classroom. And then she asked if she could do a crazy thing with a pile of year six kids – she wanted to give them a 10-week djembe drum workshop. (She was following a set of lessons they do a lot in W.A., called ‘drumbeat’ as children transition to high school. A facilitator uses drum lessons to get kids talking about what they might be fearful of as they move to senior school. It’s a great program.) Luckily, we had a principal at the school who was willing to give this a go (thank you, Mister Johnston!). Over the weeks, I would nip up to the hall to see what was going on in these classes. And I saw some incredible engagement with some really tricky customers – and love of drumming blossoming. These kids loved what they were doing!
So I learned some very basic drum skills, and piecing together bits and pieces from everywhere, started teaching drumming myself to classes. I’m not a drummer. I don’t pretend to turn kids into ‘proper’ drum students. But I do see so many things working in drum lessons. Children are engaged – really engaged. Children are listening and memorising music. They are developing motor skills. They are working as a team. They are having the most enormous sense of fun.
This was all brought back to me last week, as I was teaching. I’m at a school where things are pretty difficult at the moment. More difficult than what things were. There’s a lot of angry, disengaged little people. It didn’t always used to be like that – and it probably won’t be like that all the time. Maybe next term it will change. But it is like that now. And it’s hard to teach there at the moment. I’ve tried lots of different things to engage the classes.
And this week I chose to drum with all the classes who were big enough to do so (why I hadn’t done this before, I do not know. I tried lots of other avenues, but they weren’t hugely successful.). And I saw it again. I saw this drum ‘magic’. Kids who hadn’t engaged all term were drumming. They were answering questions as we discussed patterns. They were ‘in’ the lesson with me. They were trying new things, and testing themselves. They were sitting stiller than they had before. They were sitting taller than they had before. And most importantly, they were smiling.
Coming home, I smiled. I’m not sure how it’ll go next music lesson. But these ones were good ones. I had done my job. I had loved my job. Kymbo, thank you for opening this door. You would have been proud of me this week….