Journal #1: Begin at the Begin. First notes on first grade music

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***Oops!  I just realized that this was posted on the wrong blog.  Please enjoy!  If you’re interested in my education blog, and finding out about my upcoming trip to India to teach music and art, please join me at Mr. Carr on the Web.”

I know that beginning to collect my thoughts for this, and hopefully further events, acts as a catalyst in which the dream of India ebbs into a near reality.  The dreaming is beginning to fade into a great responsibility of what I feel is ahead of me.  In this, and other notes, will be my process, my dreams, my fears, my strengths enlivened and my weaknesses battled.

I believe in what I do.  I love teaching and lifting the soul through music.  I feel like God has set me on this path, so…here goes.

From Humanizing Education: Dewey’s Concepts of Democratic Society and Purpose in Education Revisited, by Jonas F. Soltis

“The impetus to humanize education often comes from a felt need to counter-balance forces in an educational system in which the human potential and feelings of individuals, both students and teachers, have been constrained or neglected by impersonal, bureaucrats centralized, top-down decision-making forms of schooling.  When human beings are treated more as cogs in a machine rather than as valued, free-thinking individuals, we justly feel hat their humanity has been compromised.  So, we seek to right the balance by paying more attention to the feelings and unique characteristics of individuals and to their personal development”

Pay attention to feelings, characteristics, and personal development.

Before I really begin delving into the theory and reasoning behind music in the first grade, I want to write my feelings on the subject.  These may change and/or be proved wrong…in fact, I hope some do.  I can’t grow without changing.

Music in the first grade revolves around the pentatonic scale. There is something magical about this scale.  Kids just sense what’s happening, and are able to feel prediction in it.  I am sure that Steiner has much to say about he spiritual implications of a pentatonic scale, but tonight as I’m beginning my work, all my thoughts turn away from the esoteric reasons, and memory floods in.

I remember how much fun it is watching first-graders hold up silly animal masks and sing “I had a cat and the cat pleased me.”  This was my very first lesson I taught at Blue Oak.  I remember drawing the faces of cat, dog, goat, sheep, cow, and others.  I then thought I would add Ant.  I mean, what does an ant say?!?!  I hoped the kids would enjoy it, and they did.  They loved vocalizing a “click-click” as the ant’s mandibles moved.  To them it was silly just like all the other animals.

I shouldn’t forget the fun and whimsy involved in making an Ant face.  Kids don’t rationalize the differences between an ant and a cow talking the way us boring, logical adults do. They just enjoy their dream of an animal talking to them.

This whimsy is at the heart of what it means to be a first grader.  They are good, as in everything around them.  The music reflects this too.  Carol Fegté, my first mentor, once told me that by ending on a leading tone, you teach the children to listen.  By ending on a resolution you teach them to listen for the end.  I’m going to focus on finding a good leading tone in my work, and stick to that.  It’s not the finished ending I’m looking for, but a beautiful walk through life until it stops.

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3 thoughts on “Journal #1: Begin at the Begin. First notes on first grade music

  1. I think teachers, especially of children, deserve a lot of praise (so thank you!!), and I know this is sort of off topic, but when you wrote about teaching the pentatonic scale it made me think of this clip of a ted talk where Bobby McFerrin has the audience sing a song they’d never heard before, through the “power of the pentatonic scale”. Magic. I thought you might enjoy.

  2. Pingback: Journal #1: Begin at the Begin. First notes on first grade music | Mr. Carr on the Web

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