Posts Tagged ‘Ukulele’
This is a very exciting time for me.
On my not-so-very-good-days I’d say it differently.
I’m scared as hell!
The face of public education is changing. My job (urban grade 5-6 teacher in a once progressive school) is no longer to inspire and challenge kids. I’ve become part of a test giving data analysis machine. Once I’ve digested the data I follow (often) pre-prescribed lessons and procedures to plug the holes and raise the scores. I see no boat building, inflated cities or working hovercraft in the future (These are all projects that I’ve completed in my classrooms at this school). Much of the joy has left the building.
I was going to teach for five years. I was going to do something exciting and creative at the end of those five years. (To build wooden boats was the plan then. It’s still on the list.)
This morning I began to plan my way out. It’s not the first time and probably not the last, but by sharing in a public forum I hope to build a little dialog and some accountability.
Jim Eck, a ukulele and carving student and friend, and I exchanged a few messages yesterday. We were sharing a bit about being stuck. He ended his last message with, “You have such amazing talents.”
I’ve heard this stuff before. Three hundred and fifty years of Quaker heritage make these kinds of statements roll off my back. This time it didn’t. It was what I needed to hear — an unintentional pep-talk. (Thanks Jim!)
So this morning I began to really examine these talents. Along with the Quaker thing, I’ve a very informal approach to learning and teaching so I don’t often give my “amazing skills” the importance and weight that I should. They seem to just be things that I’ve picked up along the way. I also carry a very old load of weight from a grandfather and a father (both engineers and both named Keith Davis) that completely discounted most of my skills and talents. (My father once told me that I wouldn’t understand my parents’ failing marriage because I was only a teacher.)
An older teaching friend (and wise sage) tried to convince me of the value of my skills many times. I always shrugged and blushed a lot and went right on my way. (Hazel, you’ve always been right.)
Anyway, I began cataloging talents this morning. I didn’t get far. I listed a few that are particularly strong and that I do better than most folks. There are others.
I then focused on three, ukulele playing and building and carving birds. Now I’m brainstorming ways to make these skills into meaningful and creative work. Income. Fulfillment. Joy.
I’ve spent a lifetime learning cool stuff. I’m an expert at teaching this to others. This formula should work. It has to work.
Thanks for reading this far. I need your input and help.
I’ve a few ideas that I’ll share later today.
Earlier this week I wrote about my sadness regarding the end of Pods and my ukulele program at the Key Learning Community.
My principal (a wonderful and supportive woman) is not ready to give in. She sent an email yesterday letting staff know that she has a plan that may preserve Pod in some fashion.
We’ll know more soon, but I’m very hopeful!
(There is an update on this story here.)
The word came down today. It’s the end of an era. There will be no more Pod at the Key Learning Community. No pod means that I will no longer have a ukulele program at my school.
The loss of our pod time can be blamed on a number of things. The long and short of it is that our students are under-performing and we are being required to spend more time on Language Arts and Math.
I came to the Key Learning Community, an Indianapolis Public School, from affluent Carmel-Clay Schools. I believed (and still do) that in order to educate children that thrive and love learning we must care for and nurture their creative selves.
The Key Learning Community focuses on the whole child. We were the first school to implement Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (M.I.). We worked directly with Dr., Gardener and are still considered the model for M.I. schools. We also worked with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and his Flow Theory. Flow is an important concept, especially in understanding highly motivated and creative people. We have two Flow teachers on staff that teach Flow Theory and teach children to seek experiences that produce Flow.
Pod class themes include everything imaginable: dance, gardening, boatbuilding, paper arts, puppetry, violin, choir, sculpting, school newspaper, model trains — You name it!
Most years I used this time to teach ukulele.
My first Pod, a ukulele pop, grew into the Key Strummers. The Key Strummers exploded onto a new ukulele scene. We had 16 adorable kids that performed funny songs on well played ukuleles. For eight great years we performed at national ukulele events (as far away as San Antonio), the National Governors’ Conference and with Garrison Keillor at the Indiana State Fair. In addition to this we hosted three large successful ukulele festival in Indianapolis that drew crowds (yes, crowds) from Europe and Hawaii.
The Key Strummers performed with many of the world’s greatest ukulele performers and brought them to Indianapolis: Pops Bayless, Jim Beloff, Joel Eckhaus, Bryan Tolentino, Byron Yasui, James Hill and the great Jake Shimabukuro.
But I’m writing about pods in general. Pods make school important. Pods make school bearable. Pods make school relevant.
Every student (and teacher), with every ability level, with every motivational level, with every degree of school success could count on spending 40 minutes (on most days) spending time with like minded folks that were excited about learning something special.
My pods were filled with geeks, jocks, gangsters and misfits. When we began to play this wasn’t important. The arguments with teachers and lost homework were forgotten as these children spent time doing something relevant.
This morning (after I learned that Pods would be no more, but the students had not yet learned.) a student came to class with Jim Beloff’s Book, The Ukulele: A Visual History. The book was well above his reading level, but he was reading it! He struggled with most words, but was reading it because he wants to learn everything he can about ukulele. When he learned about the people in the book that had a relationship with our group and our history he was even more motivated to digest it all. That’s authentic learning. That’s how we really learn. That’s what schools, everywhere, should be doing.
We are teaching the creativity and love of learning from our children — It’s a crying shame!
I’m playing some holiday gigs over the next couple of weeks. I don’t play a lot of holiday music. I’ve been re-discovering tunes that I used to do with the Key Strummers. In most cases I’m working from scratch. Through computer changes and intensive classroom cleanings most original arrangements are not at hand.
Here’s the first of several. I worked it out quickly and your chord interpretations might differ. Comment away.
Posted in 50 Birds for Blue Stone Folk School, Art Shows, Craft Shows, Field Study, Folk, Wooden Boats, tagged bird, carving, craft, halloween, Indiana, Irvington, IU, kingfisher, Ukulele on November 9, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
Thomas Richardson, folklorist and ethnomusicologist at Indiana University, has been following me around and showing quite a bit of interest in my work with 50 Little Birds. I’m not sure how he’s framing it (I’ve a bit of an idea) or his angle, but he’s been taking pictures and asking questions as I go about my work. This is a great experience for me. I love to talk about what I do and our discussions are helping me to articulate the themes, thoughts and processes that are 50 Little Birds.
Saturday, November 6 50 Little Birds will be traveling to Bloomington, Indiana for our second Bloomington Handmade Market.
The Bloomington Handmade Market is a contemporary art and craft fair that showcases modern handmade goods from 45+ local and regional artists.
Our holiday event will be held on Saturday, November 6th from 10 am to 5 pm at the Bloomington Convention Center, located at 3rd and College in Bloomington, Indiana.
Following this I will be playing solo ukulele and singing at The Paper Crane, also in Bloomington. Party invite below:
Posted in Art Shows, Associate Artists, Blue Stone Folk School Classes, Building and Arts Community, carving, Classes, Craft Shows, Shaker Oval Boxes, The Folk School Tradition, tagged art, craft, DIY, Folk, folk art, Folk Mucis. folkart, Handmade, Indiana, knit, letterpress, Noblesville, Shaker, Ukulele on September 19, 2010 | 2 Comments »
Activities at Celebrating the Handmade Tradition, Blue Stone Folk School, Saturday September 18.