Archive | June, 2009

Reflections from Orff Level II @ UNC, Summer 2009

Posted on 24 June 2009 by

‘Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.’— Thomas Huxley

I have been away for the past 2 weeks getting trained at UNC for my Level II Orff Schulwerk certification and though most of you probably haven’t noticed, the blog seems a bit of a distant memory. Don’t worry, my class is almost over and the entire summer patiently awaits more regular blog posts. I’ve decided this week to post my reflections on the past week and a half. And if you were wondering- No, this is NOT an assignment for class, though I’ve had one every night except for tonight, so you should feel lucky that you’re geting a slice of my precious time!

‘When I feel well and in a good humour, or when I am taking a drive or walking after a good meal, or in the night when I cannot sleep, thoughts crowd into my mind as easily as my mind might wish.’
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I have had a lot of time for reflection on my way to and from Greeley, with my hour and 15 min. commute and one of the things I have enjoyed most is listening to pieces from the Volumes. These pieces are so rich with musicality that I truly am being invigorated as I am driving. Much like attending a live concert, I am feeling emotions and evoking  a sense of oneness with the music. I am overcome by a flood of ideas for my classes and want to pull over to write them down. I need to start carrying a voice recorder in my purse like writers do;). After I arrived in Greeley and got oriented to the streets (they have both numbered street and avenues, and I can’t see the mountains!) I couldn’t help but be in awe of the beauty that is the UNC campus. The trees in full bloom and the finely cut summer grass is truly God’s perfected creation for me to behold first thing in the morning. It helps that it has been in the 70s and 80s all week. The mornings have been early, but the summer sunshine helps wake me up and I wish that it would be like this during the school year instead of the dark, cold, make-you-want-to-stay-in-bed mornings of winter.

‘We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode.’ – John Cleese

As our class began last week I naturally emerged as the skeptical, gifted student. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I have always been a fast learner and have been able to “see” where the teacher is going with the lesson. I found a lot of similarities to high school classes where I would become very fond of the teachers and they of me, like a kinship found among peers. Some might call this the “teacher’s pet”, others just see it as “brown nosing”. In this regard I had to warn myself to not become too boastful and reach far beyond the class, but to find avenues to challenge myself, and to remember to keep a humble mind and attitude. The songs and material we have learned in Basic are excellent and I have enjoyed myself immensely, even though most of the material has been too difficult for my current students at Harrington. I have learned so much more, though, about the PROCESS of teaching the Schulwerk. Our Level II pedagogy and recorder  instructor, Matt McCoy, is a MASTER of reduction and bringing the pieces to life without you even knowing it! In movement with instructor David Connors, I have learned to be more sensitive to the subtle nuances of movement and how to communicate without saying anything. (That sounds cliche for dance, but I never pushed myself really to think about it and DO it.) In recorder, I had played alto and soprano quite a bit in Level I and in the ARS, but I learned more about ornamenting and really enjoyed improvising in different modes.

‘Minds are like parachutes — they only function when open.’— Thomas Dewar

In all, this experience will accomplish something I never thought of before- to make me a better teacher, not simply by giving me more ideas and lessons to try, but to sculpt me and shape me as a musician/dancer/human being. The art that I have created in Level II will hopefully stay with me and be carried into the artistic endeavors I share with my students. The idea of open-mindedness and creative possibility that is required for the Schulwerk is obviously my greatest weakness and is something that I can continue to work on.

Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities–always see them, for they are always there.’— Norman Vincent Peale

The idea that my students will achieve the highest level that I set for them was beating at my proverbial door. I know this, but it was evident through this course that I had not been applying it.  Teaching in an urban school can make one set lower and lower expectations for your students and yourself. Don’t fall into this trap! (I’m reminding myself here… 😉 ) The kids deserve nothing less than our absolute best artistry and musicianship. The Schulwerk can overcome the “dumbing down” that seems to have to  accompany low performing schools by providing material that is not only accessible, but beautiful in its most elemental forms. I highly recommend the Levels course for anyone looking to get into elementary teaching. It is not only great for your students but, simply put, good for YOU.


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