Here at the Fun Music Company we have a wonderful community of teachers through our mailing list, and I get questions all the time. This is one that came in this week:
“I’ve been asked to music for years 1-7 with no no instruments other than recorders, no recorded music allowed at all, no computer laptop allowed and nothing too rhythmical allowed eg using school desks . Buckets – no. Children behind desks. Last century blackboard and chalk only. How would you go about this? I would deeply appreciate your thoughts.”
I’ve had variations of this particular question many times over the years, because there are a lot of religious and alternative educational philosophies around that limit the use of technology and popular culture in their schools.
I am not here to judge any particular teaching philosophy or religious reasons why they do this. It is completely understandable, and they have good reasons behind their choices.
My response here might surprise you because it’s not necessarily going to be practical. I’m not going to say: ”Here is this activity you could do” or “Here is a resource that would work” which on the surface might seem to be what the questioner was asking for.
However I believe in helping people at a fundamental level with things that really help them every single day, in every single lesson and in every single moment that they are in that school, so that is why I’ve written this article.
So for that reason there are two suggestions I have for the teacher who asked this question, and anyone else in this type of situation.
- Change the way you look at the situation.
- Have faith in the frameworks you know and adapt them.
Change the way you look at the situation
Recently I was at a virtual educational event for business people, and it had hundreds of attendees. It was great, but like all live events … things happen! People get cut off, can’t see or hear speeches, or whatever.
We had breakout groups and a leader, who would answer questions for the participants.
Often our group leader would be asked questions she couldn’t answer, or have to deal with complaints and difficult questions from participants, but one of the greatest things I got from that whole event was the way she handled these type of questions.
She would always say “That’s amazing!”.. and find then a benefit or great thing in what the participant said before she solved the problem for them.
So for example if someone said “I got kicked offline and missed part of that last session” .. she would say: “Thats amazing!, because you had some extra rest time you’ll be recharged and ready to learn in the next session!” And then she’d say “Here is how to catch up on what you missed …”
Now this is important. Because her focus, and the way she directed the focus of all participants was on the benefit of the situation. Of course she would direct someone to the solution to the problem, but she didn’t go there first. She always, and I mean ALWAYS did this. This is really important. Its not sometimes, it ALWAYS.
There is always a silver lining. I firmly believe that nothing is ever “good” or “bad”. Even the worst possible event in memory, has a silver lining.
In his book called the “Gratitude Effect” Dr. John DeMartini wrote more than 50 blessings that occurred as a result of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
I’m NOT saying that people dying and terrorist attacks are a good thing, of course not! But the point is that nothing is inherently good or bad. Events or situations just are what they are. And there are blessings and benefits to everything.
So let’s look at how my trainer from my business seminar would have responded to this question about teaching in a school with no technology or instruments!
Thats Amazing! I can see that you’re in a wonderful teaching situation with some brilliant students and colleagues. Because your students don’t have access to recorded music you’ll be able to shape their minds like clay!
They won’t have preconceived ideas on what music is good or bad, and you’ll be able to introduce many wonderful styles of music that other kids would be too closed off to already.
Plus because these kids only have access to live and not recorded music, they’re going to develop as wonderful, sensitive musicians who understand music as a live thing that THEY create and participate in. What an amazing blessing!
Also how great is it to be in a school where the recorder is seen as such a cool thing? You don’t have to deal with that negative perception from students and parents about this instrument!
The lack of technology isn’t a problem – you’re going to be able to spend every minute teaching.. .and not playing around with cables and trying to get the internet working!
Of course I could go on… and If I was teaching in this situation I would. Every day. Every day I would write these things down on my list of blessings and find new variations of things that I can be grateful for in my situation.
However this isn’t my situation today. Today I run a business, and things do come up for me every day. Things costing more than they should and things going wrong etc.
Every day I write down my gratitude list and blessings, morning and night.
If something “bad” happens, I force myself to write down the blessings that have occurred, could occur, can occur and will occur as a result.
We all need to focus on the benefits in the situation, and not the problems. If we focus on the problems, we’ll just get more of the problems.
So that is my first piece of advice for anyone in this situation. Focus on what you have, and what the benefits of your teaching situation are. Do this every day until it becomes your entire focus, and you don’t even think about what the limitations are in your setting.
This is not just “positive thinking”… I’m not just saying “think positive and it will be ok”. I’m suggesting to you that reshaping those beliefs about the situation on a consistent basis, until you really feel that your situation is a benefit, and not a limitation will result in a massive shift in your success.
Have faith in the frameworks you know and adapt them.
In the second part of the original question, the questioner asked “How would you go about this?”
Well, how I would go about this would be I would stick to my framework.
Everything is a framework. A framework is just a step by step process. For example, for brushing your teeth, the framework normally looks something like this:
- Put a little bit of toothpaste and water on your brush
- Brush lower and upper teeth for at least 2 minutes
- Expel liquid from the mouth.
Now if you don’t have toothpaste for whatever reason (you didn’t get to the shops, or your husband & kids used it all!)… the framework is still the same!
- Put a little bit of water on the brush
- Brush lower and upper teeth for at least 2 minutes
- Expel liquid from the mouth
Of course it isn’t ideal brushing your teeth without toothpaste, and you’ll want to get to the shops and get some as soon as you can, but its still better than not brushing your teeth at all!
So with your music lessons … the framework still needs to be the same, no matter what technology or instrument limitations you may have.
The Fun Music Company Curriculum Program is a framework. So if I was in this situation, then what I would do is use that as my framework for these lessons. I’d spend my evenings looking at the curriculum on my computer, and I’d master the lesson content so I could deliver it the next day without the computer in the classroom.
Each lesson would start with AURAL, just as the Fun Music Company Curriculum does. I’d master those activities and know exactly which ones I’d do for each class. In fact it would be better because I’d be able to customize them for each classes abilities, and I know that I’ll get amazing at doing this pretty quickly if I practice it in every class!
After aural we’d move to SING & PLAY. Now just because I can’t use the technology in the classroom doesn’t mean that I can’t do the same songs! I’d still use “A Ram Sam Sam” with Grade three, and “Bim Bom” with Grade four. It would of course mean a lot more preparation from me – but then I would master them quickly, and eventually I would know the songs and be able to do it without much prep time.
I can’t use recorded music for the backing tracks – but what skills DO I have? Can I play piano? Can I play guitar or Ukulele? Even if I couldn’t play piano or guitar what I would do if I had this job and was in this situation is buy a $50 ukulele and one month membership of the Ukulele Curriculum System, and that would be enough skills to play the 1-2 chords that are necessary to accompany the students for a couple of these folk songs.
Then not in all lessons, but in some we’d do COMPOSE activities. These are able to be delivered personally and by watching the lesson video from the Fun Music Company Curriculum the night before I can be well prepared.
Then you have CONNECT. Now of course because of the technology and recordings limitation you will need to find new ways to implement this, but what an amazing opportunity!
Start with yourself. What instruments can you play and bring in and show them?
What about friends and colleagues? I bet some of your close friends would be prepared to drop into one of your classes and share some musical experiences, different experiences or different cultures with them.
Then you can reach out the school community. I’m sure that there are parents who may be willing to drop into their child’s class and show a different instrument, play a song with the children or share experiences.
These children get to experience music LIVE, and not recorded! They actually have an amazing advantage because of their school situation!
So that is what I would do. I would take the framework of the Fun Music Company Curriculum, and I’d teach that. Yes, I don’t have technology, and I might have to work a bit harder at first, but the framework would still work just fine.
So whatever framework you are used to using to teach, or you have used to teach before, use it.
The “how” changes, but not the “what”.
I do hope that this has been helpful. You can always find new “whats” (new songs, activities etc).. but you need to have faith in your frameworks. You have experience, you have training as a teacher, and you have a world of resources available to you on the internet.
So change the way you look at the situation, have faith in your frameworks and I look forward to hearing all the wonderful stories of how amazing your teaching in this wonderful school has been!
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