Hang on! I think the system is wrong…. actually, I really do.

I’ve just come back from a week in a town in NSW. It was a huge week – I had two days to get three groups of children ready for a big performance at the town’s entertainment centre. I was also coming at it from a set of chamber music performances (four concerts in four days), so I was pretty raw. Did it make for better teaching? I’m not sure. It certainly made me very aware of all the things that go on in a classroom that weren’t the actual delivery of the lesson though….

So here, in no particular order, were things I experienced.

I love teaching kids music. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, or if I know them well or not, I love it. I love watching little people experience the joy of the thing that I love the most. I love watching them listen and cotton on to things – a joke in a song, a rhythm they love, a tune that is singable.

It really does matter to me how good a performance is. People will often say to me ‘But don’t worry Rachel. Just the fact they are getting up and having a go… that’s what it’s all about.’ Actually it’s not. Don’t say that to music teachers. It does matter. It actually matters a lot. Kids know if what they’ve done is good or not. And if you demand that they do something really well, 99 times out of 100 they’ll give it to you. Most children will be able to achieve more than we grown-ups think they can.

I went into some really tough schools. I was really working hard – and I’ve been doing this for a long time. And yet the children who are seen as ‘difficult’ in classrooms weren’t. So is this a way to engage kids? Is our education system, geared towards reading and writing, and sitting and learning from books wrong? Do you know, I’m beginning to think it is. Really wrong. It’s fine to do that for privileged kids. Kids who don’t have to deal with trauma on a day-to-day basis. Kids who get enough fibre, and don’t have nits, and who are wormed regularly. But the other ones? It’s not the way forward for them. And yet we keep trying to force them to learn that way. And so what do they do? They cut school. They play up in the classrooms. They are branded difficult. Maybe the system is wrong – not these kids.

I got stared on the street. Really stared at. The last time I got started at like that was in Timor. I know I’m a bit not-normal-looking, but this was like I was from another planet. And I got stared at most of all by older white men with no teeth. Not in a leery way. But like I was an alien. It was exhausting.

The difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is getting bigger. And this is not good. This will lead to things like more crime. More hatred.

And kids love drumming. Really love it. Actually, so do I.