Things I learned today from some 2nd graders…

…I was doing some drumming workshops in a local grade school, and I had this amazing moment with one of the 2nd grade classes today.

These are ‘bucket drum’ workshops–kids play rhythms on household items (big & small buckets, tiny skillets, etc.). What I’ve learned from doing these types of classes is that if I just focus on simply a) pointing out where we want to go,  b) help get obstacles out of their way, and c) catch them doing things right…they can do amazing things.

It’s so easy for me as a teacher to get mired in technical things, or classroom management, or making things ‘perfect’ (whatever that means). But, the kids have more fun if I just point the way and remove obstacles for them. It can be kind of messy and chaotic, but I’m in a room with 25+ seven year olds with drums–things can get a lot worse than messy and chaotic. 😉

For example, technique. With my background in drum corps drumming, it’s all too easy to get to go ‘down the rabbit hole’ with technique. But really, for a workshop, the kids don’t care and it’s not time well-spent. So, I literally just ask them to make noise on the instrument, and if I see the kids aren’t going to hurt themselves (or anyone else ;), and they’ll be able to play the rhythms, I’m fine with it.

Same thing with learning rhythms. We certainly don’t have time to teach them to read music, and having them ‘parrot’ what I play only takes us so far. So, we do rhythm songs. Things like “I like choc-o-late” for a rhumba rhythm (and yes, choc-o-late has three syllables…at least it does in rhumba-world ;). There is so much you can do with rhythm songs, I’m kicking myself for not having thought of it sooner.

And here’s one that I always struggle with–inspire them. And it’s crazy, because I know how to do it (and it’s easy), but I don’t always remember to use it. I’m referring to the idea of catching them doing things right. A little well-placed praise can do wonders for getting folks inspired. And it’s so easy to do, I just need to remember to do it.

Don’t forget–you don’t have to catch them doing something wonderful…you just have to catch them doing something right, or something that’s moving in the right direction. My weakness with this, is I’m so busy getting them to do new stuff, that I forget to mention what they’re already doing right.

So, this is what it all breaks down to for me:

  • Point the way: Give them the vision of where we’re going. Speaking from experience, it’s so easy to forget this fundamental point.
  • Simplify things: Develop tricks and techniques as a teacher that remove obstacles for your students.
  • Catch them doing things right: It’s too easy to catch what’s going wrong–anyone can do that. But in truth, catching what they’re doing right is such an effective teaching tool, AND it inspires them!

And as I sum things up, it’s obvious to me that this stuff works whether it’s teaching your toddler,  a class of second-graders, a group of graduate students, or a team in the workplace.

Plus, it’s so simple! Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, but it is simple to keep in mind as you’re working your way through the process.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!





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