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This week was a very tricky one for my students at Banksmeadow -- they had their first go at reading a score. I tried to make it as simple as possible for them to follow with colours, but I also made sure they were exposed to proper musical symbols and terminology.

We started the lesson with Pass the Beat, and then they sat down with the boomwhackers. When I asked them to choose a boomwhacker, I forgot that kids are kids, and will get excited if you offer them a giant colourful pole to whack on the ground, so they all rushed the front of the room to grab the biggest, brightest boomwhacker they could find. I ended up yelling, telling them to go to the back of the room and sit down and scolded them, explaining the importance of taking their time and being safe. I'm really not proud of this, especially since it was my mistake that prompted this behaviour. Their classroom teacher recommended to me that I get them come up in their table groups, which I thought was a really good idea.

I've not been doing very well with anticipating behavioural challenges in class lately which has created problems in my behaviour. I hate yelling at my students and when I fail to anticipate it feels like my teaching suffers, which means my students are getting the support they need.

I'm hoping that next week I can improve on this and also use more of the PBL framework techniques in my lessons.

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Planning for the new term and getting to design my own units always makes me excited about going into a career in Music Education. For my first two terms at Banksmeadow, I wasn't sure about the abilities or levels of the students, especially because they hadn't had a music program in their school for a few years, but this term I swapped back to teaching the Stage 2 and 3 students and I know what level/ability they are, so I was able to plan my unit in more detail. So far I’ve found that it takes more pressure off me during the term and it gives the unit a better progression. I find it also makes me push myself (and the students) to work harder and learn more, because I already had specific goals in mind for them – below you can find the first 3 weeks of my program.

Week One was really wonderful, the kids were so happy to be back in music and they really enjoyed the lesson. We began by playing pass the beat, and they caught on really quickly to the rules of the game, and ended up being really precise with keeping the beat. I really love this game because it’s fun and competitive and therefore really inspires the kids to be picky with themselves and their classmates. If they played too fast or too slow, they were out, and by the end of our second round, kids were sitting themselves out (without me asking) when they could hear they’d done something wrong. It was also really helpful to me as a teacher to see which kids were aware of the beat and tempo, and which kids weren’t quite grabbing the concept.

After this we learned a song quickly – most of the kids already know It Could’ve Been Me from the movie Sing 2, so the process was really quick. This was nice as a little ‘brain break’ to separate the lesson up a bit and also bring them back to singing, building on the skills they had learned in choir in Term 3.

I found that I had to do a lot of behaviour management this week, which I should have expected being the first week back from holidays, unfortunately I didn’t anticipate it which meant I wasn’t prepared and ended up unfortunately yelling over the kids to get their attention and to quiet them. I really dislike doing this, and I’m hoping to get a whistle or something because I hate raising my voice at them, and I don’t want them to think I’m upset with them, I just don’t know how else to get over the sound when they’re all super excited and noisy.

Overall, I thought these lessons went pretty well, especially being the first week back, and I am so looking forward to the rest of the term.

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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!!

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