LOOK AT THIS! Garage band is good fun. Nice and simple =)

'Special needs' kids require special teachers

It takes loads of patience to work in a life skills class, especially if the disabilities are of a serious nature. I’ve worked as a teachers aid for almost 4 years now and recognise the difficulty faced by teachers in life skills or special education classes. Emotions run high in these classes with constant conflicts, week after week. The teachers who seem to deal with these students best are the ones who don’t dismiss their reactions as misbehaviour, but rather try to understand what the student is thinking. These are special, talented, patient and professional teachers who aim for promoting positive learning environments no matter what the disability. These are teachers that I admire.

I aid in a music life skills class with students aged from year 7-12, and its fascinating seeing what these kids respond to. In this particular group, the students highly enjoy dancing and singing, favourite artists being Michael Jackson and Taylor Swift. On the other hand, these kids hugely struggle to complete worksheets on various topics. The activities that are attempted individually at their desks are difficult to monitor as they are easily distracted and overall uninterested in the tasks. Surely there are tasks that these kids can undertake and have interest in? James showed us some of the work he has done with special kids- which I really enjoyed. It’s so moving seeing those kids having fun when playing music. In my last semester of my BMUS I was involved in a music therapy project at a special school and it was an amazing and humbling experience. The teachers who work at these schools are incredible.

The ADHD debate interests me a lot. Was fascinating to hear James’ story of his son and sad to hear how hard it was for them during his teenage years. I must admit I sway on the side of Ken Robinson in this, as it seems that suddenly every second kid has ADHD when originally they were just the naughty kids in school. I think (without any evidence) that some cases can be related to diet. I mean, drinking coke for breakfast can’t be good for concentrating in school. I have seen a case at the school I work at where the boy had the life sucked out of him when he was put on medication. I felt so sad for him. Yes, he was hard to deal with. But I think I preferred him without medication. I’m sure it just depends on the kid and their family. No one should use medication as a cop out.

Just some thoughts….

The Roland Guys!

This week we had some special guests! They brought in their equipment and electric drum kit along with some other gadgets from Roland.

Electric kit

The HD-1 Drum Tutor allows for multiple students to learn drums at the same time, with entire dynamic control! Unfortunately I am not entirely sure how everything was hooked up (as I arrived slightly late due to a previous tute), but all the kits were plugged into a box which was then connected to an amp. On this box there was the ability to change dynamics and solo certain student tracks. Not only this but students can play along to notation (which is written traditionally but also with easier to read options) with their efforts scored at the end. Pretty clever. I like this idea, especially because acoustic drums can become fairly irritating after a while (trust me I know, my brother plays!) But the setup only allows for 4-5 students to participate, which is significantly smaller than a class. So if the Roland guys were to come out to your school, your class would need to split into groups. Generally, I’m an acoustic drum advocate, but maybe after teaching music in schools I’ll decide that electric kits are the way to go! We’ll see…

They also showed us some gadgets. A recording device (couldn’t find a picture but looks like a classic tape recorder), allows for students to record themselves in surprisingly good quality. They demonstrated the quality by getting one of the music students to play piano, then hooked it back up to the computer and played back the performance. Very good. Retails for $370 I believe. Quite a handy resource in a classroom setting. Kids need to get used to hearing themselves play. 

James then finished off the lecture by showing us the amazing works of the MLC students. Kind of deflating really. I mean, how do I even closely compete with students who are doing their LMUS! Am I really ready to teach? The documentary on their school sounds really interesting, have to see it when it comes out.


"The fastest, smartest, easiest way to write music…"

I’m stoked to how easy sibelius is to use. The shortcuts make total sense! The keypad is the exact shape of the real life keypad, making notation super fast and easy to learn!


James took us through the process pretty quickly, didn’t take everything in, but I will watch the tutorial of ‘Sibelius in an hour’ to revise/learn the tricks.

After 3 years of using Finale, I’m still struggling to remember the shortcuts and which button on the keypad means what. How I wish it had been this easy initially! The impossible hours I spent trying to fix things. 

Sibelius is my new best friend.

Listen, perform, compose!

I like the way that James starts a lecture with music. I think that should be the way to do it in a class. Get kids to play music as quickly as possibly with as little information as possible, then put it into context…and HEY they’ve probably learnt something! Brilliant. 


We started doing simple rhythms with our feet, then split into groups doing bass, snare and clicking. After this was mastered, some students learnt the melody of ‘When doves cry’ on the glockenspiels. It sounded pretty cool. James mentioned that this activity would take a year 7 class a couple of weeks to learn- which is something to keep in mind as I prepare lessons for prac with high expectations!

Powerpoints and their pro’s and con’s were discussed, and I TOTALLY agree that it can be disastrous for learning! Either talk or use powerpoint, not both at the same time! Though it can be used to further help a child understand something, with the use of an image or diagram that links with what you’re saying, rather than just reading from it. For some teachers, using powerpoint is their way of ‘implementing technology’ in the classroom, but honestly, teachers, even lecturers need to be informed of this. 


Looping = composing? James challenged my original thoughts on this, explaining the way that we can scaffold their ability to compose can be through looping. I mean, it makes sense- they discover ways in which to introduce new instruments and when, how to maintain interest in a song and not make it too busy, among many other reasons. From looping you progress to step sequencing, then from there sequencing! Notation should be achievable for year 10 students using finale, sibelius or muse score (free!). 

Lastly, we were shown garage band (which I was semi-familiar with), and how to create loops. I attempted a drum beat…have a listen. (p.s- its not very impressive…)

"We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it"

When I first began listening to Ken, I thought his monotone voice and lack of enthusiasm was just the start of a very uninspiring lecture on the problems with our education system. I was almost immediately proved mistaken when he suggested that schools suppress creativity and that we don’t grow into creativity, we actually grow out of it! This concept is unheard of in all that I’ve come across in education, but one which I believe quite plausible. My four year old brother, for example, has quite an impressive imagination at times, coming up with names, stories and ideas that constantly surprises me. He has two imaginary friends named, ‘Momb and Lollet’. Yes, this may seem unimportant, but he is showing creativity in the creation of these characters.Rather than ignoring these ideas, I think we should encourage them! As Ken states, “Children have capacities for innovation” and all have talents at young ages. Teachers should never make their classrooms a place in which kids feel scared to have an input, and a place where they feel free to make mistakes. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, creativity is stopped.

As much as I entirely agree with these ideas, I struggle to comprehend how allowing each child to show creativity could possibly be integrated into the school system!? Kids simply cannot have a teacher EACH to discover their talents.

“So few words need to be spoken in order to communicate a musical idea”