Josh’s First Class at Beatrice House

Joel came out to ease the transition to having me lead the group. Clearly, Joel is adored by all of the participants who were thrilled to see him return for the first class. It appeared that I had my work cut out for me if I was going to be taking over his role. Joel introduced me to the group as I learned some of the children’s names. But as soon as the familiar opening chords of the “Hello” song started, the energy was high and everyone was singing and participating with incredible enthusiasm. We sang through a couple of songs before some of the children led us into an extra long set of jumping and moving around. I introduced the big bag of instruments and led a “Shaking medley” of “Shake it Baby, Shake It”, “Hey There Shakey Shakey”, and “Twist and Shout”. We followed that with the Parachute and Little Green Frog before singing our Goodbye Song. Both Joel and I were giving high fives at the end. I think everyone had a great time and I am really looking forward to next week.

There were 18 children attending along with a good number of grown ups, and at least a couple staff from the shelter.  I met a lot of people and I’m still figuring out who everyone is and what roles they play.  But, they were all extremely excited and ready to go. All of the children had participated in groups with Joel before, and were singing along.

All of the staff and participants were extremely warm and welcoming. They clearly love the program and it is a pleasure to be a part of it this session. One child was visibly distraught that Joel would not be returning to lead the class. I have learned that she had been attending the group since she was about 4 months old. She sat with her back to me for most of the class but seemed to open up a little towards the end. Other than that, everyone was extremely receptive.

Music Soothes…

Whoa, today was a busy day at Birkdale. My apologies if my blog is shorter than usual, I am pretty tired after an eventful morning! There were a couple of new faces today and not many moms were able to join us. Luckily I had 3 amazing shelter staff available to participate and as we sang the Hello Song, two new siblings walked in with their mom. I was about 15 minutes into the class when the oldest sibling threw a complete tantrum when his mom decided to leave. I kept the class going but it was hard to compete with this meltdown, let me tell you! The shelter staff took turns trying to do damage control and bringing the mom back into the room, but to honest at this point, I wasn’t paying attention. I had a class to run! I slowed things right now and did my best to keep everyone’s attention by using props (turtle puppet, and rolling the ball). We also sang 2 songs about the beautiful sunshine today (Mr. Sun, Trees Need The Sun), and sensing that the group was getting restless, we stood up and marched around the room (Elephants Marching). Sticking with the animal theme we then sang a silly song that allowed us to stick out our tongues (Little Green Frog).

The IOTW was the Tingshaw Bells from Tibet and I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect instrument for today. It allowed us a chance to be quiet and focused as I demonstrated how to create the ringing sound by tapping the bells gently together. They LOVED the fact that I was able to come up close to then ring the bells directly over their head. After making sure everyone had a turn, we put them away and brought out the Jam Bag.

The meltdown was at about a level 10 by now and Elizabeth was called to assist, so we sang over the commotion (Three Little Birds, De-Oh, Head And Shoulders). I took a risk in bringing out the parachute, but played a compilation of slow tunes instructing all the children to lie down and look up at the colours overhead. It seemed to help calm the somewhat erratic energy of the group and as the little lad was taken out of the room with Elizabeth, I put away the parachute. Due to the challenges during today’s class, I decided to ask the group “What songs did we sing today?” I wanted to remind them of all the fun that we had singing about all the beautiful things outside (like the sun, trees and animals). The group seemed to respond well and yelled out things like “frog! turtle!” etc. It also helped focus the group once again for the Goodbye Song, which we sang all together.

As I packed up my things, one of the shelter workers said “wow, that was crazy today” and all I could think was “yea, but man, am I glad there was no strike because I would have missed seeing you guys!”

Amazing Friendships

It was March Break last week and I must admit after having a restful week off, I was dying to get back to Birkdale to see all my little (and big) friends.

Admittedly it was the first time I felt a bit apprehensive about seeing everyone because I have grown quite close to one girl in particular, and it struck me for the first time today that maybe over the break she had moved. I wish you all had the privilege to meet this little girl (come visit!). She is 5 years old but seems years older (I guessed her to be 8 when I met her for the first time). She has an amazing spirit and energy that affects the entire group when we sing together. Other children who are shy seem to gravitate toward her and she encourages children and grownups alike to participate as much as possible. In some ways, I hope one day she will no longer be at the residence, but when that day comes I will be very sad to see her go. I was happy to see her there again today, and was also very excited to see a couple of new faces as well. After making some introductions, we sang the Hello Song all together, inviting our new friends to stand up, turn around and sit back down. I noticed that almost all of the grownups (with the exception of one mom who seemed more comfortable in a chair) was sitting on the floor with us today! Hooray! It was wonderful to see them feeling more comfortable with the idea of sitting together, singing and interacting with their children and the others. Also, this becomes a habit and allows new moms to feel comfortable doing the same.

Due to the fact that we had five new children in class, I took the class at a slower pace than usual starting the Roly Roly (taking our hands up and day, big and small, fast and slow) and continuing to roll our hands ’round and ’round for the Wheels On The Bus. At this point, one little girl (who may or may not have been able to speak english) starting yelling at me. The mom jumped in trying to explain that her daughter knew the melody but was mad that I was singing the wrong words! LOL She didn’t understand that I was singing in a different language but nonetheless it was interesting to see how a child can recognize a melody so easily, and quickly change their behaviour because they feel comfortable enough to participate (she wasn’t so keen in the beginning but this broke the ice in a way, as she tried to sing along in her own language afterwards – south african dialect?). We then took our hands and practiced keeping a beat during the song I Wake Up My Hands. Looking at the hands, we counted all ten fingers and I taught them the chant I Have Ten Little Fingers. It was fun to see who knew the difference between their right hand and their left hand. Staying with the body part theme, we hid our hands behind our backs and found different parts of the hand (thumb, pointer and whole hand) during the song Where Is Thumbkin? Children seem to love this one because there is an element of surprise (finding the correct part of the hand and showing everyone) and yet uses changing tempos to create a kind of anticipation during the melody (on the line run away, run away as the hand hides once again behind the back). I decided to shift the focus from the hands to the feet, and asked the group to stand all the way up. We began by stomping the feet loudly to the beat of my guitar and sang Stomp Your Sillies Out, using other body parts on the additional verses. Finishing the song on ‘yawning our sleepies out’, we laid all the way down on the floor, some of us snoring loudly and stretching our arms up high above our heads. My favourite song seemed to fit in perfectly here (Sleeping Bunnies) and after hopping up and down for three (!!) verses, we sat back down and I brought out the IOTW.

This week I chose to bring the Chinese Gong. I wrapped it up in my scarf and revealed it to the group somewhat dramatically (this always makes the instrument seem more special and exciting). After speaking briefly about the history of the Gong, I showed the group how to hold the mallet properly and swing it across the front of the body, aiming for the “sweet spot” directly in the centre of the circular- shaped instrument. After playing a game about who could hear the sound the longest, we passed around the instrument allowing each child to practice hitting the centre. Some seemed shy, making a soft sound with the mallet, while others were more adventurous and played the gong loudly swinging the mallet back and forth (sometimes hitting their neighbour by accident). After some apologizes and lots of giggles due to one little child’s CRAZY gong playing (new little guy whose English isn’t very good, thus repeats EVERYTHING you say, LOL he has my heart already), we put away the IOTW and some of the older children helped me bring out the Jam Bag.

I made sure to remind the group about the various rules due to a couple of new participants (no maracas on the drums, no hitting each other with the instruments etc.), making sure that everyone had something to play, and we sang three songs all together, starting with Mr. Sun, De-Oh, and Lion Sleeps Tonight.

The parachute is ALWAYS fun. Period. This time I used the CD to play Clean-O in hopes they would recognize the melody for when I teach it next week, and also played some slower tracks because the little ones were almost TOO excited and starting to run around underneath bumping into each other.

We sang Goodbye and after a couple hugs I left feeling a little lighter and, as always, appreciative of all the support from the shelter workers at Birkdale. They are AMAZING! Anne Marie, Revi and Natalia, I am looking at YOU!