It was by accident that I discovered the horses in my Music classroom.
I hold my Elementary School Music classes in the Assembly Room. Covid-19 has put tight restrictions on my teaching, since we are a school that intends to stay live, five days a week, as long as possible. I face a sea of masks. We don’t sing. None of my hands-on games can be used this year. I don’t want to spend time cleaning chairs so students sit on the floor. Lots of rhythm work this year! New technology, and remote students to pull into my classes.
I like to get the wiggles out during Music class so for my preschool through fourth grade students I find some activity for them to do that makes this listen attentively and move their body in response. One day I asked my littles to go to the side of the room and untie their horses. In reply to my question, they told what color their horses were, which was educational for me. Blacks and bays next to pinks and rainbows.
I told then they needed to guide their horses as I gave drum cues. Quarter note = walk. eighth notes = trot. Switch to 6/8 and quarter-and-eighth became canter, while three eighths signified a gallop. Sometimes I would stop the drum and call, “Whoa!”. If they kept moving, I said, “Hold your horses!” (Private joke for me, har har. Sometimes I crack me up.) For older students I throw in some rhythm patterns as cues for some horses, such as when my drum calls “Black and white, black and white!” or “Rainbow horses run the track.”
I suspect at least half of my kids watch a lot of YouTube. They have the attention span of Doug –squirrel!– and the sensibilities of junior high socialites. These are too cool to show enthusiasm. The other half can sit still and actually want to hear me. So I get such a kick out of watching them all play at riding. They are imaginative, playful. And I just might be indulging in a little role-playing myself as I pretend to be a knowledgeable horse-trainer.
I will be frank with you, O reader of Letters from Heart’s Content. I am not doing so well with teaching this year. I can’t begin to express how frustrated I am by all the limitations I face. No singing. No touching games. I can’t see the faces of my students. Who is speaking to me? I can’t read lips to pick a voice out of the ambient noise. The best part of the day is when I go outside and rip that thing off, gulping down crisp air. Such a small thing, such a wide delight.
[One day as the third-fourth class was coming in I saw a new student. Students have been flowing into our school, particularly in K-6. I touched her shoulder and gave her a warm-but-masked smile and asked her name. The kids laughed and she looked at me oddly. No, it was a student I have known for four years! However, the class assured me kindly, it was understandable because she had new glasses and had straightened her hair. What shocked me then is that I asked her to remove her mask for a moment so I could see her face and realized it was a lot more mature than I remembered it. My students are growing up under those cloth masks and when they finally take them off they won’t be the young’uns I remember.]
I have days of work ahead of me as I pull together the virtual concert I have been working on since early October. I have to learn how to use the programs Audacity and Da Vinci Resolve so I can marry soundtrack and video for each class performance. If I can pull this off, we all get to “attend” the concert from the comfort of our couches on a dark December night, watching on YouTube. I hope. I would love your prayers for success in this project.
I have often thought of you, my readers, most of whom are known to me personally. We stand on distant shores and how wide the divide! I know you have hauntingly similar stories: family you won’t see at the most important holidays of the year; a sharply reduced social life; movie scenes that make you feel uncomfortable because those people aren’t social-distancing; economic challenges; favorite stores that have closed the doors forever; and now– a shortage of aluminum foil!!!
I hope you are counting the pleasures and finding a cornucopia of reasons to give thanks.