The students were accustomed to managing their own space as this was their theater, their home after school, and their place to be with friends. They were suspicious of anyone who might impose new rules. They were not about to be told where to sit or how to act. I realized that if I was going to gain their confidence I would have to be patient and observe their mode of behavior in order to communicate at any level. In addition, although I had arrived with the intention of being able to teach music it is important to explain that there was no prior example as to what that might mean. There was no curriculum guide, no organized groups like choirs or ensembles, nor did the students have any experience with private music lessons. It was a daunting situation.
Richard Branson states that “an entrepreneur is someone who wants to make a difference in other people’s lives, not just their own bank balances. The desire to change things for the better is the motivation for taking risks and pursuing seemingly impossible business ideas.” (Branson, R., “Comments on Becoming an Entrepreneur”, LinkedIn.com, 8/12/2013;retrieved 8/06/2013, www.linkedin.com/in/rbranson)
If Branson is right, I was about to become an entrepreneur as it is obvious that my motivation had nothing to do with money - as there was none. It certainly had nothing to do with status, position, or recognition as there was none of that either. There was just one thing: the challenge to channel the energy and raw talent that oozed from these children into something organized and meaningful. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children.
I did not set out to design a new way to manage groups of multiple aged children. I did not imagine that this attempt to motivate and engage children who had diverse learning challenges and abilities would develop into something that would be shared with other schools or programs. I just wanted to be able to find a purposeful way to interact that was both safe and meaningful and that made a difference in the lives of these particular children. \
The first three months were fairly unproductive. I had entered this world in mid March and by the time school was out I had taught a few students how to play some easy tunes on the piano and how to play some rhythmic games. Before I realized it, the twice a week after-school sessions had changed to summer school and a full day of classes and responsibilities. I would be teaching mornings and actually have students on a daily basis. Groups of approximately twelve students ranging in age from 5 to 7, 8 to 10, and 11 and over would pour into that little 12 by 12 room ( with the drum set in the middle) and I would entice them into my world of musical knowledge while utilizing their taste in musical style and expression. Think Mary Had A Little Lamb in rap and you get the idea. Let me share how this came about.
Click to Read Part 2 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 4 of Chapter One