“We learn from trying new things. We learn from other artists as well. In workshops I like to start by saying that I plan to learn from the students while they learn from me.” ~ Robert Bissett
On March 7, 2015 I delivered my workshop, Musical Links to Literacy at the Early Learning and Child Care Conference hosted by Conestoga College. I had a wonderful time and as always, considered it an honour to share a music making experience with other early childhood professionals. It’s hard to explain how my workshop has evolved, except to say that it sprang from a longing for an education in music that satisfies me both as a musician and as a teacher of young children. I’ve sought out ways to make musical concepts accessible to “non-musical” teachers, to provide ideas that can be used in many ways in the early childhood curriculum, to bring in diversity, and to find resources (e.g., books, CDs, web links, organizations) of the highest quality. And based on prior questions from and conversations with workshop participants I’ve tried to make improvements that might speak to the needs of future participants. Still, in the context of a two to three hour workshop, a presenter can accomplish only so much.
I have worked with young children for many years, over time discovering a love of music education, joining professional associations, studying early childhood music pedagogy, trying out and refining ideas in my own classroom, researching issues in arts education and teaching pre-service early childhood educators. My workshop has come from many places and experiences and provided an opportunity to share these with other professionals and to continue with my own learning. Though I have been delivering my workshop for many years, I confess that this is the first time that I have asked participants to fill in a feedback form. I’d like to share some of the comments I received and my thoughts on these. I believe it is part of the process of being a reflective educator to seek out ways to improve my own practise, especially when I am hoping to support other educators in their work, in ways that are practical, meaningful and inspiring.
And so, here is some of the feedback I received and my responses:
- To those who wished for more time, I did too! Three hours is ideal for my workshop, and would afford more time for the small group activities (and for an ice breaker at the beginning).
- To those who asked for a CD of the songs and suggested that I post on YouTube, this is something I will definitely explore. I agree that this would help people to remember the words to the different songs and rhymes.
- To those who requested a power point presentation, I have done this when teaching students, but for a workshop I find it a bit formal. While I treat arts education as a serious subject, I want to keep the tone of the workshop relaxing and fun.
- To those were expecting a stronger focus on literacy, I hope you were not too disappointed. Music and literacy is a very rich subject area, and I have come across some excellent articles on the topic. I only hoped to introduce participants to the idea that reading experiences can be brought to life by the inclusion of the different musical concepts explored, and I wanted you to discover that a lot of resources are at your disposal for doing that (e.g., felt board, scarves, masks, puppets, instruments etc).
- To those who reminded me about touching and social contact – thank you. If any of the rhymes or games made anyone uncomfortable, I am truly sorry. I included some fingerplays and rhymes mainly to demonstrate ways to involve younger children through gentle and playful physical contact (e.g., puppet “kisses”, or holding hands for a singing game). Still, it is important to ask permission and consider different cultural perspectives on touching – what is comfortable for one person may not be for another.
Thank you again to the amazing educators who attended my workshop, who were candid with me in their feedback and who have given me even more to consider for the next time. I hope that you got some new ideas, and some inspiration, and that it instilled in you the love of music that I feel. I have no doubt that you give your love of learning to the children that you care for and teach.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~ Rumi