This summer I am celebrating 5 years of teaching as a Kindermusik educator. And what some five years it has been – I started my very first class with just eight newbie Kindermusik families and have just recently broken the 100 families enrolled mark! One hundred families enjoying music together every week – just wow! I have been awarded ‘Maestro’ educator (recognition for teaching excellence by Kindermusik International) for three years running, teach 11 classes a week (12 from September) and have at least four children who have been with me since the very beginning as an educator!
So, what have I learned as an educator over the past few years?
It goes without saying that being a self-employed business owner has been a very steep learning curve. In those early days, it was incredibly hard to get classes off the ground and a lot of my time was spent worrying about the where, what and how to do things. After several locations and a lot of stress later, I was fortunate to end up at St. Barnabas Church in Earley as well as partnering up with Earley Music Centre. In addition to the teaching I have to manage the business side of things and have managed to create a website, learned to use various online systems and continually battle with joys of social media advertising! I still have lots of things to learn but that’s what keeps life as an educator interesting.
Nothing keeps my Kindermusik role more interesting than the families and children who join my classes. Over the five years I have had the joy of ‘teaching’ all ages from 6 weeks to 7 years old and every age group provides different challenges and rewards. But Kindermusik is much more about teaching the children, it is also about getting the parents involved and sharing ways of making every day a musical one.
Parenting is one hell-of-a journey and I get to meet such a variety of parents with different parenting styles, backgrounds, interests and ideas at their earliest stages of that journey. We know that every child is different and has different needs but so does every family and every parent. I absolutely love including the parents in my classes as I can see that parents who understand their children will help children to understand themselves. From parents who bring their babies to class and begin to understand the basics of child development to my Young Child parents who often end up learning to read music for themselves in order to help their child, a supportive parent is a wonderful thing and I love to see this bond grow in my classes.
Children are fascinating to watch. Looking back at myself as a parent, I know that I was so absorbed in the day-to-day jobs of keeping the small thing alive that I didn’t always take the time to watch them grow up. I have learned so much about myself and my parenting style over the last five years – through watching and observing the nuances in other people’s children, I have learned to notice those in my own. Whether it is the small babies trying to have a little conversation with you or focusing so hard to grab a musical shaker, the toddler who suddenly learns how to jump or discovers where the bird sounds are coming from or the shy child who gradually starts singing without prompting or finally puts up their hand to answer a question. For every child, these things are massive milestones but are over in a few seconds – blink (or go off to do the washing up) and you miss their joy of mastery and learning. I hope that in my classes, parents can just spend a precious 45 minutes watching their children grow by simply noticing them through making music together.
Creativity is exciting
Children are born to be creative and to problem solve. After five years, I still get new ideas from the children about what to do with my egg shakers! Yes, we can shake and tap them but they can also be rolled with your toes, made into a snake or dropped from a great height. We have so many material ‘things’ in our lives that it can be quite hard to know what to do next but I see that by giving a child just one or two items, the imagination simply goes into overdrive. By acknowledging their creativity and ideas, a child will come up with another and their smile becomes broader and learning deeper.
I think I have also become a much more creative teacher. Of course, I start off with a lesson plan for every age group but there are very few classes whereby I stick to this and am not influenced by the activity going on in the classroom. So many factors can have an impact on the direction a class can take and I feel that as my experience has grown, so has my flexibility to adapt. Sometimes class energy levels dictate what we do – finger plays for a class of physically excited 1 year olds is usually a no no! In this recent heatwave, babies may not want to be held for too long so a group dance is out of the question or maybe the pre-schoolers have been in a hot classroom for 3 hours in the morning so come to me tired and seemingly non-engaged – my challenge is to spark an interest or encourage some relaxing activities. A couple of weeks ago, my Young child students decided they wanted to ‘floss’ to a song – yep, I did it!
Music is key
As a musician myself, it is not surprising that I am passionate about music making and believe in the many educational benefits of music – on literacy and maths skills, social and emotional development, motor skills etc. Five years on, I am so fortunate to be doing a job that I not only enjoy but get to see these benefits first hand, every single day that I teach. In parenting, as well as in the classroom, music can be used to positively distract, to instruct (THAT away song!), to calm or to energise, to help socialise, to encourage movement or simply help you feel more positive. I know that if I wake up in a slightly less positive mood, a few minutes into my first class of the day and I am a changed person. Music + children is a magical combination.
What will the next five years bring?
Hopefully much more of the same and many more families enjoying Kindermusik and making music together. Perhaps I can encourage others to join me as an educator so that they too can enjoy what I do and together we can spread the musical joy in Reading.