Tom Herriman's Journal
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News and Views
October 16, My First Class,
I taught my first class today and it was quite an experience. I was surprised to find 50 kids jammed into the room. I was expecting 30. Just to be safe I had made 40 handouts. I had envisioned pulling the desks in a circle, but there was barely room to turn around. and there was a big pot-hole in the concrete floor right in front of the blackboard that I kept tripping on. With two classes, that means I’ll have nearly a hundred How’m I ever going to remember any of their names? The students were 11-12 year olds. They all stood up and said good morning in unison when I came in…they do that for everybody. I introduced myself and explained where I am from and gave them a quick geography lesson.
For the music lesson, I taught them ‘you are my sunshine’. We read the words out loud, then sang it through three times. Then I asked them what the song was about…who was lying dreaming? Why did he cry when he woke up? Why did he describe ‘you’ as his sunshine. Pretty soon, the kids caught on to what I was getting at…getting them to look for the story in the words, instead of just memorizing the sounds. There’s a lot of rote learning in the classes. It’s the predominant teaching style. And I was trying to get away from that a little which is hard with 50 kids in the class.
One of the teachers stayed in the classroom with me the whole time, translating American English into Ugandan English, which are a little different. I’m glad Mark was there because he kept an eye out for those moments when he knew we weren’t communicating, and helped us get through that.
Then we talked about what makes up a song…melody, story and rhythm, and I think they caught on to that a little. Then I exposed them in just a few minutes to my complete knowledge of musical theory. I drew a musical scale and named the notes, and showed them what the first few notes of Sunshine look like on the scale. That exhausted my knowledge of musical theory, so we sang you are my sunshine again and then the hour was up. The kids clapped and cheered.