Ep 53: Emotionally-Inclusive Music Classrooms (Part 2 of 2)
1:15AM Apr 21, 2023
Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast - Episode 53.
Debbie O'Shea here, ready to present for you the second part of my chat with Bryson Tarbet. Let's talk some more about removing barriers. It's a great way to think of things for your classroom, removing barriers for your students. And moving, let's keep those children moving. Enjoy part two of my chat with Bryson Tarbet.
So is there anything else that you would like to tell us about your classroom and sensory friendly classrooms, before we go on to our nuggets of fabulous?
I would say the biggest thing is get the kids moving, my classroom is a big open room and the only furniture in the room is my desk and my chair. And we get them up and moving because one I feel I feel like kids sit down too much and music does not, very rarely do you sit and listen to music. You know, music is moving, music is dancing, music is getting up and there's so much more joy when the students are able to act like kids in your classroom, and they're able to move, and they're able to be set up for success because they're not being asked to sit down for 40 minutes. You know, in my classroom, I have a kind of an unwritten rule in the back of my head when I'm designing my lessons. I don't want to be in one space for more than seven minutes. So if we are sitting on the floor, and I'm reading a book, alright, I have seven minutes, I gotta get going. Because otherwise, that's when you're gonna get the kids that need to move, they're gonna start doing a little swirl dance. And then we have classroom management issues, then we spent, you know, we're spending time trying to get Johnny to sit down instead of listen, when the reality is your lesson wasn't set up in a way that Johnny could be successful. Why are we spending 20 minutes singing Crisscross Applesauce, when we're in kindergarten, that's not going to work. So it really comes down to let them move, let them move, let them move.
I love that. And I'm assuming it's similar in the USA to Australia, the swing over the last few years. It's been a few years of sitting in their desks to learn and to do you know, standardised tests and you know, play based learning has been virtually pushed out, you know, our prep levels, which used to be preschool here used to be play in the sandpit, do the gross motor things, play with the balls, paint. Now it's fairly early on, let's do our sight words. Let them be children, for goodness sake. So I think it makes the music room so important.
Another soapbox, but like when we focus so much on testing students, whether or not we say it, they start understanding that their value is related to their test scores. And when we have students that are struggling to learn, maybe they can't read, or maybe they're really struggling with math, they're able to be successful in our room in a different way. They're able to access a completely different set of skills, they're able to be successful, because it's different than, not only is it different content, but the way that we interact with it, rarely is there a right or wrong answer. And that really, that's why I love it because I really can allow kids to be successful, regardless of what happened before they came into my room.
Yes, I love that. It does, it gives you joy, doesn't it to know they can be successful with you. Have fun in your room, be successful, learn and not be labeled as the dumb one. I've had children say to me on Oh, no, no, I can't do that I'm dumb, you know.
That breaks your heart.
It really does.
I've had students who really struggled, you know, by third, you know, fourth grade, they're still struggling to read. They're still struggling with math, and then when they get older and they are still struggling with school, that's when the behaviour issues really come out. Because they don't want to feel stupid, but they do and because of the way that our schools are set up. So what I love especially about teaching recorder is it's new for everyone. No one knows how to do this, very rarely does anyone come in say I took recorder lessons, you know, and everyone is on the same level playing field. And I've seen these kids light up because I was able to, let me say not me, music was able to give them a chance to be successful in the day when they are working so hard just to get by in the rest of the classroom. But in music, they can let that wall down. They can be on the same level of everyone else. And it really truly is magical to see just how that can change a student's perspective in your classroom.
Yes, absolutely. And I also think that singing games, even just playing the game, we're all in the circle, including me, I can be out. They feel valued and worthy.
There's a lot of community that music isn't that involved in, and I think the elementary music room is a wonderful way to show how music and community can be related.
Yes. And I believe that just that in itself is part of an inclusive classroom.
For sure. I could not agree more.
So I think that we're all starting from a place where we're a little bit ahead in some ways of the classroom environment when it comes to inclusivity. That's being positive about it.
Yeah, I mean, there's definitely ways that for one, a lot of us have a lot of freedom, about what and how we teach. And that alone can be super helpful. Now, there's the other side of it is that we have to figure it all out a lot of times. But I think that alone, that freedom to teach what your students need, in that moment, that freedom, if we use it in a way that is strategic, can really allow the kids to be successful.
Yes. So we should rejoice in that freedom. It's a it's a bit of a double edged sword, isn't it? Because like, it means nobody really knows and understands what we do. When I say nobody, I'm talking about other people in our school, don't fully appreciate what we do. That can be a problem. But mainly, it's a joy.
I agree. I think that it's rough when you're a first year teacher trying to develop, you know, seven grades of curriculum. But once you're able to get through that, been able to apply that is wonderful.
Yeah, absolutely. I agree. There's lots more we could talk about with inclusion. But should we pop on to your nuggets of fabulous? You've already given us some really great hints and ways that we can start looking at our classroom, but would you like to give us some nuggets of fabulous, could be anything, tips, tricks, ideas, repertoire that you'd like to share with everybody,
My biggest thing that really changed some of my classes, especially with students that were really struggling behaviour wise, and sensory wise. I have had quite a few autistic students in my lifetime. And being able to implement visual schedules not only helps these students but I also serve a lot of English language learners in my school. So that also reinforces you know, the structure of the class, and you know, what's going to be coming next and it relieves that anxiety and it relieves that, you know, the fear of Alright, well, what's coming next, or I really want to use the drum, there's a drum in the middle of the floor. What do I need to do? Oh, it's not time for the drum yet. Visual schedules can be great, social stories are amazing. Just being able to kind of essentially talk a student through a situation, especially when it comes to like showing expectations and things like that can be a great way to show the expectation, rather than just saying it. But the biggest, I guess, nugget of fabulous I want to leave is to encourage any teacher there that's listening to take that first step. I know that there's a lot that could go wrong, and likely you'll make a mistake. But the reality is, is if we don't take that first step, we still have students that aren't able to access our curriculum. Yes, we're gonna mess up along the way. I have implemented things in my classroom that I look back on and go, Wow, that was completely misguided. That didn't help that student. Honestly, it probably comes from you know, like, it was just not helpful at all. But the reality is, each of those steps took me closer to having a classroom where that student is able to access the curriculum, taking that first step can be really hard. But it's so important because there are students that want to experience music, there are students that need to experience music in their lives, and we have the responsibility to help them unlock our curriculum, and make sure that our curriculum isn't locked behind this barrier, and make sure that they're really able to do what they need to do be successful in our room.
I love that they certainly are nuggets. Is it okay, if I just show my ignorance a little? Anyone who knows me knows I'm happy. I love what you said about taking steps and it's okay that they don't work. Because that's how we learn, you know, and we are lifelong learners, that's for sure. Can I ask you about social stories? Can you clarify that for me.
Yes, social stories. It's essentially a book you know, think about when our young kids we teach. My nephew is really into biting right now. So we have a book that's called teeth are not for biting. And it talks about when I am angry, I can chew on a toy, I can, you know, it's just showing, alright, we don't want you to bite, stop biting your friends. Alright, so what can you do if you're angry? I can ask for a hug or things like that. Now what that's getting out in the story is, hey, stop biting your friends, do this instead. What that could look like in the classroom could be for when, for instance, when I taught a self contained class of students with disabilities, they were younger. And they typically they were a little bit higher behaviours. So I used a social story at the beginning of every class to reinforce expectations, there were pictures of things, there are pictures of me, pictures of you know, like, it might say, in music class, we will not run in music class, we will stay on our dot, so I took a picture, and it showed the dot that they sit on in music class, you will listen to Mr. Tarbet, you know, just again, instead of saying, These are the expectations there on the wall, it's really just kind of talking them through of what to expect, how they're supposed to interact in the classroom, and what things they might do. It's a really great way to show it visually and orally at the same time, those can be super helpful and don't need to be anything fancy, mine was literally just a piece of paper with some words and a picture glued to it, it doesn't need to be pretty.
Nice. That's a really good idea. I love that you could also do it electronically I guess, couldn't you?
You could have a little library of them. That's certainly a nugget. Your visual schedules? Do you tend to have a similar sequence of types of activities? Or do they vary greatly.
So my lessons typically follow some sort of framework, usually, it's like entrance songs, rhythmic something, book, melodic something or flip flops. So the way that I would do it is I was just kind of show the major parts of my thing, I wouldn't necessarily Alright, first, we're gonna sing this song, then we're going to sing this song, but like, Hey, we're gonna do rhythm work, then we're going to do our story, then we're going to do melodic work, or something like that. And I don't always use a visual schedule. But when I do, or when I have a student that I think would be would benefit from it, I definitely pull it out and implement it.
Yes. Love it, they are great nuggets of fabulous. Now, not knowing your system over there. But we're finding here in Australia, definitely, were having to work pretty hard to validate our position and to say, Guys, do you know how important music is for our children? Like nothing to do with protecting our jobs? This is for the children? So advocacy is a big thing here. You know, and I'm working very hard in different little ways to promote the importance of music education. So do you have any advice to our listeners around advocacy, how we can convince those outside of our circle who know how important it is?
I think anytime you can show it, rather than telling it, that is so much more impactful. I know here in the States, a lot of people that are parents now, when they went through school, their elementary music was one of two ways, kind of closer to what it is now or more likely sitting reading out of a textbook, singing out of a textbook. So people don't understand what goes on in our classroom sometimes. People don't understand how things are structured, they might walk by our class on the way to the cafeteria, and they see a bunch of kindergartners jumping around like frogs, but they don't understand that we just went through this whole sequence of musical things. And we just happen to be doing that by jumping around like frogs. So whenever I am able to show my administrators, show my colleagues, bring parents into the classroom, have my performances not be this big whole production with costumes and this and that, but really be like, Hey, this is what happens everyday in your classroom. This is how we use these different concepts. Let me show you how they can figure out what song I'm singing just by me showing you the hand signs, like isn't that cool? That's a really good skill. Really show them all the things that happen in our classroom, because it can be really easy for us as music educators to feel like everyone should know. But a lot of the time, the only interaction that people get with our classrooms are performances. So when we're performing, putting on you know, the Wizard of Oz, or this that, there's no problem with that but that's performative rather than education. Yes, so much education went into that happening, but how can we also show them the process rather than just the product?
Gold! I agree 100% and I think it's up to all of us to work out how to do that best. I know in my situation I've managed to, well COVID effected things as well, but we replaced for want of a better word, a concert that was like the lower school, the little kids and now I started last year and I'm going to do it every year and I love it. Each year level did something, did this little concert and I called it a celebration of learning, which is what our school does.
I love that.
They'll do a celebration of learning. So the year 3's for example they did a song that we did in class and I was able to give a little introduction and we did Fuzzy Wuzzy and we sang it, and we sang it in Solfa, we sang it in letter names and showed it on the hand staff and I said and now we going to perform it with an ostinato, what's an ostinato kids? A repeated pattern. We'll play on this, so I actually turned it into, though we had practiced, you know, we didn't give over seven months to practice it, but we had a bit of a practice so they knew what was expected because they were a bit excited to be on stage but it was designed to be, Here's a window into our music classroom, this is what we're learning. So powerful.
Yeah, again, there's nothing wrong with having a performative thing. But we need to be aware of what that says about what's going on in our classroom, or what people might assume that means. I love the way you do it. That's exactly what we do here, with my school as well, each grade gets their own informal thing, and it's just, it's so much more meaningful, and it's so much easier and less stressful, and you don't have to start Christmas music or, you know, whatever, in September, you're able to just use what's going on in your classroom, and just say, Alright, we're gonna just do that over there now. So helpful for so many reasons.
So many reasons. I call it a window into the music classroom.
I love that I might steal that phrase.
Oh, thank you, like, have a look at what we're doing. Because at the same time, so for us, this is like towards the end of the year, because you know, our school years, January to December, I'm trying to do assessment. I'm trying to finish off assessment and write report cards, and finish off, you know, I need to hear this and do that. I don't want to stop everything to do this really like you I don't want to be against polished performances. But you know, if someone asked me to do a musical, I'd go, Oh, time for Debbie to retire. I ain't got time for that. You know, nothing wrong. Sorry. All those people out there listening. If you do musicals, and you love them, I'm sorry. Great. You do that? That's wonderful. I just can't see how I could fit that in with everything else that I do. You know?
Yeah. And that also goes down to the awareness of yourself as a person. Like, I'm the same way like, would love what I love to do a musical at some point, maybe. But like, maybe not five musicals every year, like, I will leave it at that.
Because I think it's yes, showing what the kids do. So yes, so your show it as often as possible. Basically, is what you're saying.
As often and to whoever will listen.
Whoever will listen. There are some times, I've actually got myself in trouble. Sometimes I'll even the kids will be doing something amazing. It just will work. Like I'll try some harebrained idea, and we're doing it and it's working really well. I will literally go to the phone. And I'll ring the principal or the deputy and say, Hey, what are you doing? Can you race down, you should see these grade sixes, quick? I think sometimes when they see the phone calls coming from Debbie's room, they go, Oh, no. But I think that says a lot too, doesn't it? That I'm so excited about what they're doing that I want to show the admin. But of course, the more they see what is actually happening in the room, the better. So I agree, show everyone. And there are even times, I try not to do it too much. Because I do get labeled as the fruit loop. I know. But anyway, I can walk into a staff, the staff room and go, I'm so excited. Do you know that the grade ones I just did my favourite lesson. They now know their first rhythmic concepts, and they're so excited. I know that makes me the fruit loop but it also tells everybody that what I do is important and that their kids are learning in a different way in my room.
So we're going to finish, it's been great chatting, we must chat again. Bryson,
For sure. I'm always up to talk music again. Yes. Especially when it comes down to accessing the curriculum. That's one of my soapboxes I'll never get rid of.
Oh, I love it. And I will possibly see you at the summit. The next summit.
Yes, the elementary music summit we're super excited.
Yes. Oh, and I like to let you get on your soapbox, but and it could just be me personally asking here. Can you just quickly talk about your classroom. So you've got Bryson, who's the classroom music teacher and you've got Bryson who helps other music educators through That Music Teacher in your podcast and the summit, which is very similar to me with my classroom and doing Crescendo. Tell me about those two things, actually fitting them in, how they work together, because I think they're really related. Like I know, for me, they're really related. What I do with Crescendo helps my classroom practice tremendously. My classroom practice informs and helps my professional development practice. You know, they're obviously related. But I would just love to hear how you see those two things working in your life.
I echo a lot of what you said, where I feel like I learned so much about how sometimes being Bryson of That Music Teacher makes me analyse Bryson in my classroom and realise things that I wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't thinking of things through a different lens. But you know, short answer, long story short, That Music Teacher started by complete accident, and I just kind of kept doing it, and it became my self care. I love doing this. I am. I mean, we're like five years in at this point. So we're beyond saying it's just an ADHD fixation. But I'm sure it might have started as that. But I mean, like, I'm here in my studio, I have lights and a camera, and I just, I'm able to connect with other music teachers from around the world and I absolutely love it. It lights me up, I come home and I work on That Music Teacher because it really allows me to think of things in a different way, which lights me up as an educator of educators. But also, it helps me in the classroom every single day.
You have just defined the way I think, well, we're this is literally I'm speaking to you. This is Sunday morning, here in Australia, in Brisbane. It's your Saturday evening I believe, this is literally my last day, at the time of recording. This will come out a little bit later, the last day of a two week holiday. So it's our Easter break. Easter was in the middle. It's the last day of my holidays, and I will go back to school and people say how was your holiday? Did you go away and someone will say, how was your holiday? What did you do? I'll go I had a great holiday. I've spent two weeks working on my podcasts.
Yeah, you're like I recorded nine podcast interviews. What? I do that every time.
Exactly. They'll go Oh, okay. But I've had a fabulous holiday. This is what I want to do. It's what lights me up. So yeah, I feel a kindred spirit here Bryson.
All right, soapbox. Time to finish. So if you can get on your soapbox, finish this interview, tell the world anything you wish to say that's really important.
Oh goodness, I'm a man of many soap boxes. But I guess if we had to boil it down to one, it's music teachers, specifically elementary music teachers deserve high quality, content specific professional development. We deserve to be able to learn from other people that are doing the things that we're doing. We deserve to be treated as professionals by being given that PD in our content area rather than being told to go to it Oh, you're gonna learn we have a new reading curriculum. Okay, why do I need to go to that, and that is one of those hills that I am willing to die on is that music education and music educators deserve this content specific professional development that thankfully, the internet is making so much more accessible, but we still have such a long way to go.
That is a fabulous place to finish this episode. Bryson, it's been a delight to speak to you.
Thank you so much for having me
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don't forget that you'll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/53. Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you got all of the detail that you need. If you found this podcast useful, I'd really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. We'll will meet again. I hope we will. Bye
As we know laughter relieve stress. Don't lose sight of the funny side of life. Why can't you run through a camp ground? Well, you can only ran because it's past tents.