from the blog.

What I Learned at School

I recently completed a two-week artist-in-residency at the Rutland Intermediate School, teaching over 500 students about the steel pan.  It was a great experience, full of insights gained from my interactions with the kids.

Here are a few of my take-aways:

Use the Energy of your Audience

All it takes is one eager participant to spread motivation among an entire group. Oftentimes, we hear the opposite — that one bad apple spoils the bunch — but genuine enthusiasm is also contagious. When you recognize positive energy as it walks into the room, that is a gift.

Look for it, use it, build on it, and notice how a genuine and vibrant learning culture gets created.

Deliver Worthwhile Content

The kids asked great questions as I talked about the steel pan and its origins.  Was I born in Trinidad? (No.) Did I make the pans? (No.) Would I use my pans for cooking? (No.) Do we get to play those things? (Yes.)

If your content is interesting, engagement comes naturally.


Follow-through is Key

Don’t say you’ll do something unless you are prepared to do it.  Early on in the residency there was a student who asked if I could play Under the Sea. We were out of time, but I told the student to remind me the following week. 29 classes later, at the end of the first week, I had no idea who had asked. But I knew enough to be prepared.  The second week rolled around and the student who wanted to hear Under the Sea came bubbling into the music room. I played the opening of the song, the kids started smiling and singing, and that set the tone for the class.

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