People first. Musicians second.

Image via Pixabay

In my school, music classes, and other specialist classes, are delivered once a week to every class in every grade at the primary level. In the course of one academic year, I will see the students roughly thirty-six times. THIRTY. SIX. TIMES. Due to my obsessive and perfectionist nature, I put a great deal of pressure on myself to design units that are engaging, concept-based, and infused with musical and technical skills. If one lesson is “off”, there goes one of my precious thirty-six lessons to teach my unit. No big deal. . . 

And with that, when students come to music class with their “drama”, already I am foreseeing my lesson going down the drain. I am annoyed.  I say to myself, “Child. Don’t you know that today we are going to learn about Tchaikovsky and his contribution to our musical world?! I don’t have time for your ‘drama’!”

Wait a minute, self. Stop. Reflect. Act.

Danah Boyd’s article, “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, discusses her search for “…understanding the underlying dynamics” of bullying and how to “find intervention mechanisms that work.” Although her research subjects were mainly teenagers, I wondered whether or not my school’s research-based programs and interventions at the primary level provides the ideal preventative measures to nurture and support students before they go forth to middle and high school.  Hmm. . .   

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcFICCVWliY[/youtube] 

(Learning About Bullying – Pt 1, The Tough Kid Bully Blocker Shorts)

For instance, what I love about the PYP framework (although my school is only in its second year of implementation) is the concept of the IB Learner Profiles. The Learner Profiles are a set of attributes that prepare students to become “active, compassionate, and lifelong learners”. We aim to incorporate one or two profiles as we design our units of study. When the students come with their “drama”, we stop, reflect and refer back to the profiles.

  • Are we being THINKERS? Are we thinking critically and creatively to recognize and approach this problem and find a solution?
  • Are we being COMMUNICATORS? Did we take turns talking about the problem and discussed how it makes us feel?
  • Are we being PRINCIPLED? Are we acting with integrity and and honesty? Are we taking responsibility for our actions?
  • Are we being OPEN-MINDED? Did you consider the other person’s perspective?
  • Are we being CARING? Did you show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others?
Kelso Wheel

Kelso’s Choice is a conflict management skills program that was implemented in my school several years ago. Unique lessons and activities are taught so that students learn strategies for solving small problems. Students are instructed how to identify the difference between small and big problems – big problems in that adult intervention is necessary. Kelso’s Wheel is displayed in a corner of my room to give students a safe space to solve their small conflict.

Second Step is a social and emotional learning program that teaches skills for students to regulate their emotions and behaviors so that they are ready to learn. As a result students are better equipped to manage challenging situations or conflicts.

My hope is that the combination of the IB Learner Profiles, Kelso’s Choice and Second Step will result in the decrease of bullying in the primary and secondary schools. I DO try to make an effort to remember that I teach people first and musicians second. It will be a win in my book if my students grow up to be the “active and compassionate lifelong learners.” It will be a bonus win if they can articulately discuss Debussy’s non-traditional musical compositions in comparison to the likes of Mozart or Beethoven.

Have a great week!