Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Magical 5th Graders

My first year starting kids out in music as 4th graders, I was terrified.  I was incessantly worried I would mess up their foundation, thus ruining them for life.  The notion of introducing a child to music was daunting.  How do you do it?  While I obviously learned myself, I was 3 when I learned how to read music!  I don't remember how it happened!

When they were 5th graders, something happened, though.  Our very first song in the book, a 2 lined song, took 3 weeks to learn the previous year (with the 5th graders I had not started).  However, this time, when MY 5th graders read through the line, they made it all the way through the very first time.  I was ecstatic!  

We played Tchaikovsky, and I had to teach them how to say "Tchaikovsky".  
Chai - like the tea
Cough - like coughing
Ski - like the sport

They could count out loud.  They could pay syncopated rhythms and offbeats, which is challenging for anybody much less 5th graders.  They cheered for themselves when they were done playing through something.  When I would give them directions, they ALL would listen, all would do it, and all would remember it forever.  They were magical.  Thus, I began calling them my "magical 5th graders".  (Any teacher out there knows that getting a class of 50 kids to all do something the first time correctly and remember it forever really IS magical!)  They were an amazing combination of smart, hard working, talented, and pleasantly enthusiastic. 

As 6th graders, we played a piece called For The Star of County Down.  Most kids don't enjoy slow music, so I said we would sight read it and see if they liked it.  We had to learn a few new concepts (triplets, 6/8 time, some new notes) before we could do it.  But when we read the music for the first time and got to the slow section, something hilarious/wonderful happened.  They started playing and you could hear an audible sigh as they were playing.  One 6th grade boy exclaimed, "It's SO BEAUTIFUL!" as he was playing!  (That's completely allowed in my classroom.  I encourage dorking out.)  When we finished, the kids were SO excited and demanded we play it.  We ended up taking it to Festival, and we got our school's first Superiors (the highest marks) ever.  We were also the youngest group participating and I was so proud of them.

They remained amazing through 7th and 8th grade.  All the while, I called them my magical 5th graders.  It feeds the soul when you are with amazing people for 5 years.  I was so sad when they graduated 8th grade, and was mournful at the idea of not seeing them every day.

Well, today they graduated high school and they are on their way to college.

They may be 18, but to me, they will always be my magical 5th graders.  Still amazing.  Still smart, hard working, and talented.  Still genuinely good people.  I wish them all the luck, although I know they don't need it.  

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