Day 14: Lessons from our Music Teacher

I remember watching my own children’s fascination when they heard live music for the first time.  They were awestruck by the sounds that emanated from objects. The ability to make, understand and teach music astounds me. I feel like a three-year-old watching musicians play. Music is magic and something that is entirely out of my reach.

Our music teacher visits my fifth graders once a week. I worry she’ll lose patience with the ragtag bunch. She doesn’t. She has faith in them and the power of music.

Yesterday, she said, “I’ve noticed when I teach you something new, you guys get kinda out of control.”

What a profound observation. I don’t always see that phenomenon in the moment of teaching, but it is clear as day when I watch her instruct. The discomfort in learning can produce divergent behavior. That feeling of, I’m not any good. Or I’ll never get it. Show up in different ways. We all have those moments.  Some are more susceptible to it.

I have some kiddos who let you know how they’re feeling. You can’t miss them. The real problem comes from the ones that pretend they are doing.

Yesterday in music, I noticed Jeffery*. He was holding his guitar. His hands were in the right position. But they weren’t doing. He just sat. Still. Waiting patiently as others played.

What was going through his head as he sat waiting for the song to end?  I looked around the room. The majority seemed like they were doing it. Strumming, moving their fingers back and forth on the neck of their guitars. Many kids were approximating. They didn’t have it, they fumbled here and there, but they were trying while Jeffery sat.

Watching this lesson and Jeffery, I couldn’t help but think about the reading lives of my students. For some reading is a magical thing. While others look at books the way, Jeffery handles a guitar. They sit quietly turning the pages waiting for time to pass. They fly under the radar. Hoping not to be found. They haven’t found a book, yet. I have a group of kiddos that fit this description. We keep looking for that  I-love-this-book book. One that they will remember.

At the end of the lesson, Jeffery sat in his chair holding his guitar while the others lined up to leave. The music teacher walks up to him and patiently instructs him. In this private moment, he tries. Bravo Jeffery.

Yesterday I learned lessons alongside Jeffery. About patience, believing in my students and the magic of the music.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers and the Slicer community for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.


9 thoughts on “Day 14: Lessons from our Music Teacher

  1. I’m glad the music teacher noticed and went to Jeffrey for that small teaching moment. We don’t always notice. Some kids will always stay in the background. You capture this in your slice today.

  2. I would have been Jeffery, I never could understand the language of music. I love these observations you are making as you write about life in the classroom. Believing is the first step to everything.

  3. I guess that the music teacher noticed Jeffrey, too. It’s nice to hear that you and the music teacher are good “noticers”. That’s one of the things I spoke to those new teachers I mentored, a skill not all who teach acquire easily. It’s a smart observation from your teacher. Now I’m wondering if she and you have a strategy to change that behavior when teaching something new?

  4. This:“Yesterday I learned lessons alongside Jeffery. About patience, believing in my students and the magic of the music.” So much to love about this line.

  5. This is such an important and interesting post. It makes me think of the trend, about ten years ago (or was it more) toward teaching children using multiple talents/modalities. How each of us is good at something, and each of us learns differently. Being able to observe one’s class while another teacher is working with them is such a great idea. Why don’t we do it more often? And, yes, the music teacher did notice something profound and shared her noticing with the students. How cool is that!

  6. Wow! What an observation about “discomfort in learning” when our students are learning something new. That’s a wise music teacher! I love this very small moment of observation on your part that becomes such a profound reflective post.

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