Thursday, 16 February 2017

Day 4 Musical seeds

Fabulous morning at a school in Buda this morning. Saw three classes in succession; kindergarten, first and second graders - so our reception, year one and two.

A morning of inspirational music teaching and an insight into the Hungarian school culture, with which I will start. Pupils wore their own clothes rather than uniforms.  The school went up to 16 so there was exposure to a mix of ages. The relationship between teachers and pupils was incredibly loving; kisses, cuddles, holding hands, warm facial expressions.

The atmosphere in lessons was positive, lessons went at a great pace and children were engaged. There was no raised voices from teachers, no cross facial expressions, just gentle scaffolding and support. The kids weren't perfect (which I was pleased to see!). But any talking or silliness was jut ignored by the teacher and the children were soon re- engaged.

The music teaching was just inspirational, and seeing what the children could do was impressive. It made me long for my own sons to receive such an education. How I wish primary school teachers in our country had the confidence, and competence, to teach in a similar fashion. Why is there a shortage of such people? Probably because their own music education was lacking and we now have a chicken and egg situation.

So how did seeing the primary lessons help me? Apart from making me determined to do as much as I can with the 12 hours I have to prepare Durham University teacher training students to teach primary music?

Well, it's all about seeds, musical seeds. The teachers today could not have had the same outcomes if it wasn't for the foundations put in place by the kindergarten teachers. It made sense of everything I have seen over the last few days! The work of the kindergarten teachers is vital! With the right musical seeds being planted, and nurture, deep roots form, the tree grows, and bears much fruit.

Thank you parents for entrusting us to 'plant seeds' in your children. My one hope is that schools like I saw today would become a reality in England and I would have the surity of knowing the nurture and growth would continue.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Just be...

Day Three
Absolutely amazing morning! Visit to the Palace of Arts, a very modern amazing piece of architecture, a beautiful setting in which to inspire music making, think Sage plus!!
We had the privilege of watching a 0-3's class for parents and little ones, not a dissimilar experience to the idea of our Monday morning do re mi music classes. Aside from the awe-inspiring setting, the session leader has not only taught for 25 years but grown the idea, having 255 'branches' across Hungary.
The session was delightful, with parents sitting round in a circle with their little ones. The focus was 'singing' and no props were used, although the leader played her violin and recorder at points. The parents sung with volume and a lovely selection of beautiful folk songs was used. One in particular had a very haunting melody that was just beautiful.
Ilona, the leader, spoke to us after the session. Her priority was music for the parents, believing that if the parents 'catch' the songs, they will sing these regularly at home and the children will 'catch' them. She was quite clear that it was NOT entertainment for the children.
This has led me to a reflection on experiences and the point of them. Over three days I have seen very different sessions with very different 'musical points'. Yet what did they have in common? What was at the heart? Three words come to mind: holistic, simplicity and enjoyment.
What seems to be important is offering different experiences, allowing the children 'to be', and not having pre-determined expectations of the outcomes. Unfortunately, this seems to be the antithesis of our current education system. Oh how I wish this wasn't so. At least for the four years children are with me at Do re mi day nursery, I will endeavour to ensure this is the reality.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Bread and butter....

Day Two
It was hard to try and capture the essence of yesterday's visit. I am still reflecting on what I saw, heard and experienced. The main bits that stay with me, apart from the amazing sense of calm  in the kindergarten and the high levels of well-being, were the musical aspects.
The children were 'musically comfortable' as were the nonspecialist teachers. It certainly blew out of the water 'you have to be a music specialist to teach music' and likewise that some children are musical and others are not.
All children were engaged and participating although there were no expectations that they 'had to'. The teacher just started singing and the children 'gathered'. The volume with which the children sang often drowned out the teacher's voice.  Music takes place daily, mainly taught through singing and movement, with the children 'catching' new songs rather than being taught. It was all very natural, organic and embedded.
The way the session progressed allowed for individual children to be developed, although again subtle and natural. There was no pressure. So although the lesson was packed with musical learning the overriding priority was enjoyment. The children were having HUGE amounts of fun (reflected in the amount of laughter).
The Teacher made all this look simple, and the session flowed. It was a delight and privilege to watch and importantly 'normal' in these kindergartens. It is daily bread and butter in their musical diet. I hope that the 'bread and butter' we are giving our children at do re mi is just as sustaining for them.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Budapest Kindergarten Study Tour

Day One
I may only have had 5 hours sleep last night, but the bags were forgotten upon our arrival at Sunflower kindergarten. What an inspirational place!

We had the privilege of watching two sessions, talking to the teacher, the director and the vice mayor. The kindergarten is for 3-7 year olds and kindergarten is compulsory 9-4 daily (although open 6.30-5.30).

There are 6 classes of mixed age children, they stay in the class with their teachers for 3 years, only moving up to school when they are actually ready. There are daily music sessions taught by their teacher, and I will return to these.  The focus of kindergarten is PLAY. There is no formal teaching of reading, writing, until they get to school.

The first session was class music. I won't go through everything they did, but in short the laughter, joy and engagement of those children was immense.

The whole atmosphere at Sunflower was relaxed and calm. Children were definitely scoring highly on the Leuven scales of well-being and engagement.

We were there for over 2.5 hours. Teachers & children were calm, focused, engaged. Behaviour was beautiful. Children were happy.

Why oh why does the UK have the highest number of unhappy children in Europe? Why does the Netherlands have the lowest? Is it because in and amongst league tables, expectations, politics, material wealth, school pressure, that we forget to let our children do what they do best?..... Be children?

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Testing, testing, 123!

Well, setting up a blog has been on my 'to do' list for a while....  why blog?  To share with all our nursery parents, music class parents, and followers of my research what I am up to.

I am quite a busy bee, and wear several hats, however a lot of them link, cross-relate or inform each other.

Why now?  Why have I managed to finally get organised and sorted with a blog.  Well, I have the privilege to be going out to Hungary on Sunday for a week on a study tour with the British Kodaly Academy.  I will be visiting kindergartens in Budapest and receiving lectures and tuition at the Kodaly museum and Kodaly Institute.

Rather excited about the impact this will have on my work - all of it! - what I can bring back for the nursery, my music classes, my research and my lecturing.

Several parents and others have asked me to 'blog' from Hungary and keep them posted about what I learn each day.

So here's hoping there really is 'free wi-fi' at the hotel, that I can work out how to use my new tablet, and that I will find half an hour a day to blog about my journey!  Do follow me, and see where I end up!