The End of Semester One, The Start of PEX2, and The Exhaustion of Miss Brereton: A 3 Part Series
First things first -- We Don't Talk About Bruno presented by Tutti Music Academy is complete!! The students did such a brilliant job at helping me put this together and it was incredibly well received by the students, parents and audience at the presentation night. I was so proud of all my kids, and I hope you enjoy this video too! You'll find part two of this riveting series below the video.
PART TWO: THE START OF PEX2
PEX2 has been so rewarding and challenging so far. It started a bit rough in Week One, and I found that I really struggled with the difference between teaching primary and middle school students, especially year seven.
Year Seven is so similar to primary in many ways, you have to communicate so clearly with them and be sure to fully explain all instructions and concepts to ensure their understanding, but they have this growing need for both individuality and belonging and I found it so hard to approach this in my teaching. Teaching a group of students whose names I don't know was hard enough as I didn't know them and didn't know how to approach them as individuals, but because I couldn't help them with this students took their own measures to stand out as individuals. I found that the more I was able to get to know them and support them in this, the more students seemed to respond to my instructions and actually enjoy the lessons I was teaching because I was able to differentiate more and cater to each students personal needs.
They also have a very different attitude to music. My primary classes are designed to be largely focused around actively making music and learning theory through playing and discussing (teaching from behind your instrument style). In high school, the focus seems to be largely on starting with theory and writing (which does seem to calm students but doesn't seem to particularly interest them) and then finishing the lessons with 20 minutes of practical on whatever instrument they are learning that semester. Students in my PEX school were studying the orchestra for theory while learning keyboard for the practical component, but there was rarely any overlap in these aspects of music study, and little to no composition. The Stage 4 NSW Music Syllabus does encourage teachers to integrate these aspects in their classrooms, but I found it really difficult to do this within the program the school had designed. In their study of Morning Mood by Greig, I tried to have students move between playing the melody and listening to the melody, but in the set up of the school this is quite impractical, as the keyboards are located in a different room, and aren't set up in a particularly group 'friendly' way, and are certainly more suitable for individual work and practice.
I think this program could be improved if more keyboard friendly orchestral pieces were used for study that it would be easier to integrate theory and practical. In my first lesson I taught at the school, I tried to teach Haydn's Surprise Symphony to Year Seven using boomwhackers which didn't go well, as they didn't know me and were just a bit too excitable at holding giant whacking sticks. I think if I tried it again now that I know the classes and have a little more experience with them it would go over better, but the classes consistently struggle to stay focused with instruments in front of them. Both these pieces would be fantastic to plan integrated lessons around, however if I were to redesign the course, I'd change some of the other repertoire chosen to be more 'playable' by students.
In my own musical journey I've been inspired by my Popular Music Studies course and the amazing students here at my prac school to pick up bass guitar, and am continuing my tradition of buying instruments at the end of term and learning them over the holidays. I really love the bass guitar so far, and I found that in the Popular Music Studies course it just felt really good in my hands and was a really fun challenge. So I bought one from the Gladesville Guitar Factory (who are absolutely fantastic and have been amazing to work with over the past year or so - if you want a guitar go check out their website https://guitarfactory.net ) and have been spending the last few days teaching myself.
This was my first attempt at making music with my bass guitar and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and I'm super excited to slowly improve over the next two weeks. Unfortunately, I was a bit too enthusiastic to start with, and my fingers are very blistered, so I'm taking a little break for the rest of the week to let my fingers heal, and then will be back at it! Enjoy this little clip and standby for instalment number 3: The Exhaustion of Miss Brereton.