Week 14 – From students to adults

From students to adults…

If you read last week’s blog you will remember the story of our work with a student to overcome performance anxiety.  From his courage and accomplishments I took encouragement and inspiration to overcome some of my own performance anxiety last week.

Since beginning this facilitator position it has been suggested a few times that I should put together some PD for teachers, and while I agree that yes, this is something I should and need to provide for teachers, I am plagued with stage fright when I stand alone.   For the previous school year, I managed to avoid this by twisting arms and roping other people into doing it instead.  In now my second year in this position, it has been a personal and professional goal of mine to simply make it happen.

A few days ago I held an introduction to elementary music PD session.  I was quite nervous about this right from the get go and now my final preparations were not going well.  First off the night before the PD session, my computer sabotaged my work by shutting down while I was nearing completion of the powerpoint.  Despite having saved it at various stages, I was unable to retrieve the most recent save and lost about half of the presentation.  Mercifully, having slept on it I suppose, the next morning  I woke my iMac up to find she had coughed up the document as it should have been and there it was right there on the screen.  Whew…good to go! Oh but wait, there was still one other machine that would toy with my emotions throughout my dwindling remaining hours of preparation; the copier.  If I asked it (nicely I might add) to produce 12 copies of a document, it rather sarcastically would multiply the 12 I asked for by another 12, spitting paper out like a professional card dealer.  Since I had sent several documents to the copier to be copied in sets of 12 before heading to the machine to pick them up, by the time I got there that machine was in a printing frenzy that would marvel a production company.  This was the thanks I got for when just the previous week I took the thing half apart while playing its little game of “Find the paper jam.”  It was now I who was in the frenzy as I darted back and forth from my computer to the copier trying to figure out how to cancel print jobs.   During this process, I was so stressed out that on two occasions a staff member entered the copier room and I literally jumped when they said “hello.”

Finally the copying was complete, the session folders were stuffed and the room was set up with tables, a circle of chairs, and musical instruments, paper, and markers scattered about the room.  I wanted the session to be as musical of an experience for the group as possible, just as I believe their classes ought to be.  So I made sure there was music playing through the speakers as they came into the room.  Low and behold, the speakers worked, no technical problems there.  However, my powerpoint did not work.  It turns out that a PC won’t run a powerpoint that was created on an iMac.  Argh! Why can’t we all just get along?  I sent a quick e-mail to our tech department who promptly came to my rescue upon returning from lunch.  Meanwhile I got the group started.  I wanted them to explore musical sounds as soon as possible so I decided to postpone the traditional introductions until later and instead had the teachers move around the room completing a sound scavenger hunt.  As they hunted I played a clip from the Vegetable Orchestra on the screen to help encourage their explorative imagination.  After we had chatted a bit about the hunt and the vegetable orchestra we moved onto a rhythm game where we took a few minutes to use body rhythm patterns to learn each others names and a bit about each person’s work.  We spent some time doing rhythmic activities and then we moved on to composing.  My favorite moment of the session came here when I informed the group that they were going to compose a song.  Everything up to then had seemed to be going well and as intended.  Teachers were exploring sound and rhythm, they were smiling and laughing occasionally, and the vibe in the room seemed positive.  When I said we were going to get into composition, the room went awkwardly silent and that good vibe disappeared (at least it seemed that way to me).  At the very least, I had just made some people feel very uncomfortable about what they were going to be asked to do.  Interestingly, this fear is the same thing we see with students; it sounds much harder than what it actually is.  The task was for teachers to get in groups and create a short song using any instruments they wished and then to create a visual representation (graphic notation) of their song using the paper and markers that were available.  They had about 20 minutes to do this task, during which I had music playing softly in the background.  Within moments songs were being created, groups were problem solving together, the teachers were strategizing how the song would go and how it would look on paper, and most importantly, several people were smiling and laughing as they practiced their song and made mistakes while they learned.  The good vibe was back!  When their time was up, groups were invited to perform their song if they wanted to.  I was pleased to see that despite some initial fears, each group presented their song and they were all excellent!

I don’t know if the teachers in this session realized it or not, but often the same fears that we have as adults about learning, about challenges, about stepping out of our own comfort zones, are no different than students.  The teachers reacted to the topic of composing just as older students do.  Younger students are far less fearful about such a creative endeavor.  In the end I hope the teachers came away empowered to do things in their music classes that they might not have thought possible previously.  I hope the teachers are less inhibited by any fears they may have had about teaching music in their classrooms.  I hope the teachers had a musical experience and saw a modeled classroom scenario that would work for them.  At the end I played the group out with a tune by Walk Off The Earth.  I meant to play it while they packed up their things and headed out, but instead they all just stayed and watched it.  All in all I think it went well, the feedback I was left with was positive and encouraging.  The vibe was good!

I want to thank all the teachers who participated in this session.  By demonstrating a willingness to confront your own fears or challenge your comfort zone, you allowed me to confront and challenge my own.  We need to provide the opportunity for our students to do the same!


Kendra’s Reading Corner…. 

Things to think about…

“Questons for teachers:

A) Teacher values:

What aspects of musical skill do you value most in your students?

What does your curriculum do to foster the skills you value?

Are there aspects of musical skill which you do not value?

Does your curriculum do anything to devalue these skills?

B) Pupil values:

What aspects of music skill do your students value most?

What does your curriculum do to foster the skills the students value?

Are there skills which the students value which your curriculum does not?

Does this matter?”

Reference:  Teaching Secondary Music, edited by Jayne Price and Jonathan Savage, Sage Publications, London, 2012.


The Carrot Clarinet…



Kendra’s Schedule this week:

Monday – DO all day, 7:00-8:30 pm West Band Concert @ Asquith

Tuesday – DO all day, Kim meeting 11-12

Wednesday – AM Colonsay, Pm DO

Thursday – DO all day

Friday – Blaine Lake all day


Next Week:

Monday –  7:00-8:30 pm East Band Concert @ Saskatoon

Tuesday – AM, Blaine Lake gr. 6 PM

Wednesday – Colonsay AM, DO PM

Thursday – Blaine Lake all day

Friday –


“Why did I deem that arts advocacy was necessary? Well I still do think that music and the arts are an essential part of what makes us human.  I believe.”  Dennis Tupman