I started teaching music in schools quite early in my life and I followed this path which has grown into a passion for the last 20 years. I was lucky enough to start working as a music educator, as soon as I finished my university degree. I worked first in primary education for two years and afterwards in high schools. I can say that I was always enjoying my lessons and I was always trying to offer the best I could to my students. For the last 7 years I have been teaching in #EarlyChildhood and it has been, and still is, such an amazing and powerful experience that I feel blessed to have such opportunity in my life. Here I have to mention that while being a student, I had the opportunity to work for a year in a nursery school as music teacher and I share this first experience with you.
When I was first invited, I thought ‘ok, it seems easy, it will be just 30 minutes lesson, time flies, everything will be perfect I will do it!’ So, I went to a music store and found many books for early childhood with stories about music and music notation and, I also got a book with some kids’ songs. I planned everything and I was ready to head into a classroom and implement the best lesson, since I had everything very well planned.
But, now, after 20 years I have to admit that this was a total disaster!! I will never forget that during the first, and also the following lessons, the 30 minutes always felt like hours!!! Kids were showing no interest, I had to give orders all the time, and I was trying to ‘teach’ them some songs and music symbols. I do not even remember what I taught to these kids and I was teaching them for 4 months, once a week. All I have as a memory is the feeling of not being enthusiastic about going to this kindergarten. One thing I clearly remember is my contribution to the final school show, where the kindergarten teachers had chosen the song and asked me to 'teach' it to the students!! Not an easy mission since the chosen song was not a kids’ song, children never enjoyed it and the lyrics where so difficult that I couldn’t even explain to them the meaning of the song so they can remember. I really need to apologize to these kids one day because this was not the best way to teach music in a kindergarten.
Seven years ago, when I quit my job from public schools, since I had chosen to return to my country, Cyprus, I was looking to do something more innovative in the field of music. So, I made a lot of research and decided to start offering Early Childhood music groups.
In early childhood music groups, I never use playback tracks to offer more ‘fun’ in the group. The main instrument is the voice, because this gives the opportunity to young children to develop their listening skills so well that can perfectly sing in tune and recognize melodies in seconds. It is really interesting when children have to guess the song of a melody that I am humming and they immediately respond while their parents keep staring at me admitting that they cannot recognize it. The communication with these kids, is so powerful; even those they cannot talk they always find the way to ask the song they like, either by showing to me the actions, or coming close to me and search for the right prop to show me. Actions like this show great self confidence, interpersonal and cognitive skills.
I can list thousand achievements that children accomplish during our music lessons. One of the most amazing things I recently had the opportunity to experience is through the 'Can you be Mr Doolitle' game where the group of 4 years old kids have to guess what song I have in my mind. So, when it is time for this game, everyone sits down quiet and stares at me in the eyes. Usually, I make the sound with a puppet voice (just making sound following the rhythm of the song) or tapping on my knees the rhythm. Kids are awesome, as soon as I finish the first musical phrase of the song they manage to guess the song and start singing along!!!
All these amazing experiences I have with my little ones give me the happiness to go to my school every day and keep teaching these souls with so much joy. My students are my motivation to keep educating them and also mentoring new teachers to follow the same example, and I am really proud that I have managed to share this dream with a great team of Early Childhood music educators in AMusEd school.
I wish I had a mentor back then, 20 years ago, when I first entered in my first kindergarten class. Children do not care about symbols and learning a song. They only want to have fun, explore things and experiment with sounds and movement! Only by enhancing learning, giving many stimuli, offer a variety of songs and activities we can engage children in music making. Music making is the key to music learning. Music is a language that can only be taught if someone speaks it.
Early Childhood Music lessons are so powerful and both parents and educators need to understand the value of them and bring some more music making in children's lives.