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  • Josephine Brereton

So, while I’ve absolutely failed to maintain ‘weekly’ blog posts, so here is the condensed version of the last 3 weeks of my life. The end of term four has certainly been trying and tiring, but I've struggled through as best I could.

Week Six

I had the absolute pleasure of stage crewing the IPSHA Performing Arts festival which had about 21 schools spread over 3 days coming to the Sydney Town Hall to sing, dance and play in combined bands and choirs, as well as performing their own individual items.


It was a rewarding experience but also exhausting. There were some schools who were really on top of their performances and keep their students respectful, but some schools had no idea and let the kids do pretty much whatever they wanted. I found that the standard of performance over the three days was really different as well, some of the combined items either fell apart completely, or actually seemed really tight and came together wonderfully.


Some of the schools were also really defiant and insisted on moving their own stuff, which messed up our whole system and made the change over between school so much slower. It was really irritating that they didn’t trust us to do our jobs properly, but thankfully we only had a few schools like this.


It was also really lovely to become so familiar with such a beautiful Sydney venue, and one that I've been performing in for such a long time. Being able to go in each day and know that I was going to find a new beautiful corner of the building was so exciting!


Week Seven

This week was spend singing with one of the worlds most famous choral composers and conductors, Eric Whitacre. This was the first program I’ve done in a while that was 1 performance only, and it felt like the stakes were really high which was quite terrifying -- especially since I was working with one of my personal music heroes -- but definitely made me work harder.


I connected with this piece so deeply — its about a woman who sadly died from ovarian cancer, and her husband and children who watched her go through the process, but it’s also about love, loss and grieving. These themes have resonated deeply with me over the past few years and especially as we sang this amazing work. Eric said to the choir before we went on stage that we would be forcing audience members to experience emotions and feelings they may not have been able to confront yet, and I felt this really strongly. It was a moment that really reminded me that music is about feeling and vulnerability. Overall, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I could have hoped for.



Week Eight

The final week of this school term was a lot quieter. One of my schools finished on Wednesday and their end of term timetable was horrifically complicated and it wasn’t going to be worth going into school to teach. However, I still was able to go in and finish the last week of my unit with the Stage 1 classes of Banksmeadow Public School. The children seemed to really enjoy this unit and I was even able to collect some work samples as well. They learned to sing, to read rhythms and play instruments while singing too.

My kids have really enjoyed choir this term as well, where we sang a bunch of songs both old and new. I was really surprised that the students seemed to prefer older songs (like Country Roads and Beds are Burning) rather than currents songs they might know better.



Its been a challenging but rewarding term... looking forward to the next one!!


  • Josephine Brereton

Updated: Oct 28

The past two weeks have been exhausting, trying to manage AMEB exams, work, a gross cold and rehearsals all at once. I’m so excited to be singing A Sacred Veil by Eric Whitacre in the Opera House on the 7th of September (tickets here: https://bit.ly/3pXW84X ) but rehearsals have been difficult — I do not recommend trying to sing with a blocked nose.


My work at Banksmeadow has been amazing, and I’m finding that the more effort I’m able to put into my lesson plans, the more the kids learn. and the more I enjoy the lessons, but it means that when I’m short on time, motivation and energy, I get into this vicious cycle of not preparing, not enjoying the lesson, and then feeling more exhausted and unmotivated to try harder. I’ve been struggling a lot with imposter syndrome and motivation recently, and I find it hard to pull myself out of these bouts of self doubt. Today was a great day with the kids and I feel a bit better, but I still have a long way to go.

At the moment, Stage 1 is focusing on learning to read rhythms. At Banksmeadow I use ‘beat boxes’ to help the students learn to read rhythms — they look like this:



Each box represents a beat, and the students know how many times to clap per beat by looking at how many circles or dots are in each box. I explained this to Stages 2 and 3 just as I have here and they responded quite well, but I wanted to ease Stage 1 in a little slower.

We began by jumping through 4 hoops laid down on the ground (first guided by me, and then to the beat of a song), before introducing a known rhythm for them to jump to — the first four beats of Bee Bee Bumblebee — which has two notes in the 3rd beat. Most of the kids picked this up pretty well and all got it correct with some guidance. I made sure to write in on the board, so they could visualise what their jumps would look like. Next week I’ll build on this to have them begin reading rhythms on their own (without jumping as well!)

The first 3 weeks we focused more on singing, especially Bee Bee Bumblebee as I’m trying to build their confidence in singing alone, and trying to get to know the classes! I felt in these weeks that I wasn’t doing enough with them. but I think repetition and consistency has actually been really good, especially with Year 1 and Kindy. We learned a few new songs, and built on some old ones, but they’re definitely making more progress now.

All my lesson plans for these classes can be viewed here at the following links:

Lesson One - Bumblebee Beats

Lesson Two - Beats and Hoops

Lesson Three - Rhythm Boxes

​https://bit.ly/3cAtELw


I’m enjoying my choir work with Stage 2 and 3 the most at the moment. They’re really wonderful kids and they seem to enjoy singing together a lot. I’ve had them singing Country Roads by John Denver and Beds Are Burning by Midnight Oil a lot which they LOVE, but they struggle more with the more popular songs I’ve picked like Wait a Minute by WILLOW and As It Was by Harry Styles. I think this is because they know the songs and have more of an opinion about them.


In week four, I struggled with a mistake in my lesson plan as a result of forgetfulness – I had planned to teach them In na nay gupuwana for the schools NAIDOC week, but I completely forgot that I’d already taught it to the Stage 1 classes in Term 1! I had to think on my feet, so I taught them Midnight Oil’s Beds are Burning. It actually ended up working hugely in my favour -- I'd been having trouble getting some of the older students to sing in choir, and taking on a rock song instead of some clean and smooth pop songs really helped them get into it -- they could use their 'rugby' voices and it really acted as a little bridge into actual singing. Once they were comfortable with 'rugby' singing, I was able to get them to pull back a little bit, and they ended up singing quite beautifully. I was so proud of them and they did such a wonderful job!


I'll be trying to update more often from now on, hopefully staying truer to the idea of 'weekly' blog posts!


Prac has been such an exciting learning experience and I am really enjoying it, but its also been super challenging. Working 6 days a week very quickly became a huge challenge on both my time management skills, and my mental health. Teachers are incredibly overloaded and even doing just a half load of teaching has been super challenging for me, especially while trying to maintain my usual studio teaching and my choir rehearsal in preparation for Vasks and Mahler.


PART 3: THE EXHAUSTION OF MISS BRERETON

I'm very used to juggling uni and two or three casual jobs, but especially in the first two week juggling end of uni assignments, three casual jobs and full time work (in the form of prac) was absolutely killing me. Not only was I really struggling to adjust to teaching high school (as highlighted in the last instalment of this series) but at the end of each (often quite difficult) day, I had to run off to either a rehearsal or an afternoon of teaching and then spent all night trying to figure out my lesson plans for the next few days. I found this really difficult to juggle, and the pile of things I had to stay on top of seemed to be never ending and always growing. Thankfully I only had about two weeks of this before uni ended and things got a bit easier and another week later one of my schools finished for the term so I had one more evening to myself to plan lessons. Unfortunately as the new term has begun, concert season has also begun, meaning I'm at school all day, and at the Sydney Opera House every night singing Mahler 2 with the SSO. This is such a privilege and I'm so excited to be singing in such an impressive world class venue, but I am so incredibly tired and burnt out. It really feels like a struggle to get through the days and the nights and balance all my lesson planning, my 'real' job, practice and basic self care. In two weeks I'll be at the opera house again singing Brahms' German Requiem which will be lovely and hopefully a little less stressful as I will have finished prac by then.




Getting into the last two weeks of my prac has been very exciting. I feel like I've learned a lot in my few weeks here and I feel a lot more settled in my teaching and in my relationships with my students. I feel much more confident and prepared for my lessons and I am finding that students I previously struggled a lot with are warming up to me and I'm able to influence them more positively. I'm really excited to be working with Year 8 over the next week, as they've just finished an example on guitars and reading tab, and are ready to start learning about chords!! I love teaching students about chords because it means we can start jamming and playing music they know and will really love. Its lessons like these that I hope will make students fall in love with music and learning music.


I'm also really excited to restart at Banksmeadow Public School this term. I'll be working with the Stage 1 classes, Support Unit and Preschool. I'm really excited for this and I think it will be a very different experience to the work I was doing with the Primary students. I'm excited to be able to teach through games and play and I think that the primary students will really benefit from choir and singing together, and I really look forwards to interacting with them in this different format. A lot of my older students in year 5 and 6 can be quite rowdy, and I'm a bit worried about how this may present in such a large group environment and how I'll manage it. It will be really nice to have the other teachers there to supervise a little bit so I can get some feedback and support, but I'm worried that I'll get a little bit overwhelmed by all the students. I still need to prepare my program for this term, especially since I'll have to prepare about 3 different lesson plans each week, one for early Stage One, one for Stage One and one for the Support Unit. For last term, I was able to used a modified version of the same lesson plan for each class, but I think I will need something a bit different this term. For the first week or two I might try a similar approach, using one lesson that I can modify a bit for each class, and then I'll see what needs changing.


I've learned a lot on this placement, and even though it has been super exhausting it has also been very rewarding, but I'm excited for it to be over so I can get back to working and use all the new skills I've learned to benefit my own students. I'm also excited to get back to some bass guitar practice! Its going slow at the moment but I'm still so happy and obsessed with this gorgeous instrument!

Enjoy xxx