A music therapy session with a new class today got me thinking about certain things.
Ironically, it wasn’t the kids I worked with that got me thinking. It was the teacher of the class.
More specifically, how the teacher of the class responded to her kids’ behaviour.
Bearing in mind, of course, that these are kids with special needs, albeit high-functioning ones. They understand instructions, they can follow verbal directions without needing too many prompts, and they can adhere to rules and regulations when imposed within the boundaries of the classroom.
The thing was, though… where is the balance between imposing rules and letting the kid “be themselves”?
When is it ok to let the kid have free reign over how he wants to drum and how he wants to hold his mallets, and when is the right time to correct them and show them the “right” way to play?
When is it necessary to step in to tell the kids to “use gentle hands” because they’re doing something really dangerous to hurt themselves and/or their friend and when is it ok to let them have their fun and freedom, even at the risk of taking some risk?
I don’t have all the answers, even though some of the teachers would think that we’re the “music experts” and SHOULD have all the answers.
My stance has always been that musical expression is and can be a platform for communication, interaction, identity building and personal growth, even at 5-6 years old. So when we tell a kid they’re playing the drum “wrongly”, or that they’re going to hit their friend, when in fact they’re sincerely communicating and expressing through the act, it could possibly send a deep message to to them, influencing how they start to view the world and their role in it. Something I really hope we have not done.
Being a teacher, no matter the context, is never an easy task, as I can personally vouch. But I sometimes think we’d do our charges a lot more good if we learnt how to put our own anxieties aside and not worry so much about out heads rolling off the chopping boards should the kid emerge with so much as a scratch on their arm.
Give them more space to find themselves, more air to breathe and discern right from wrong… play the role of the guide, not the authority.
Isn’t that possibly more beneficial for them in the long run?