Robin and Michael play guitar
This month, many of you joined us for the first time! Thank you very much for finding Guitars in the Classroom and choosing to make a difference for children through training their teachers to make and lead music. The training you are supporting does so much for everyone by unlocking creativity, musicality, and confidence in the people children depend on every day, all day long. It's amazing how much impact a teacher has on the life of a child.
Thanks for caring about the teachers and giving THEM the chance to love teaching through music and to learn how to do it artfully and sensitively. Thank you for getting the guitars into their classrooms. For helping us create new programs and keep older ones going. 73% of the teachers who train with us, if they had to buy a guitar and pay for private lessons, could not take the first step. Finances and lack of self confidence would keep them back. Making sure this work free for them is crucial to this mission. If a teacher had to buy a guitar and pay for hour long classes, she'd have to find about $1000 somewhere to get through a year of GITC. She'd have to justify this to her family and herself even to get started. In the balance against the needs of her family, guitar and music would have to "wait" and might wait forever. And many teachers require 2-3 years of ongoing training because they are starting from the very beginning and becoming musical takes lots of time and practice. So she'd need that money every year. Some of the teachers who train with us might manage, but they are a tiny minority. And could they continue with it? You know the answer.
We at GITC think it's enough that the teachers GIVE us their time, their practice, their faith, and take a huge step by picking up a brand new instrument and playing it in their classrooms so their students can love learning with music. Thank you for giving the teachers your vote of faith and confidence and this life changing opportunity.
Each teacher reaches about 76 kids a week during the school day with free music making and another 23 before and after school in clubs and extra-curriculars. Multiply that by every year the teachers you are training stay in teaching and your gift is impacting thousands of students over time.
Why is this work so powerful? There is a lot of science we could tell you about, and at our website we keep adding articles. One reason is that the music and language centers of the human brain share space and functions. When we use one, we are growing and using the other. So music making builds language skills, and language is the gateway to much learning. Every song is filled with rich language- new vocabulary, poetry, essential phrases. Each one adds to what students know.
It is also powerful because making music opens hearts and minds together and lets all kinds of good feelings and ideas take hold. And when a teacher knows he can lead a song, write catchy, intelligent lyrics, strum the guitar and help the children sing and create their own new songs, then "teachable moments" multiply. Those kids are on board and part of the learning team.
Each time that teacher plays and sings with the students, he gets stronger, more capable, and happier. That joy is contagious and we all know that joy in a classroom means sunshine on the inside. Remember yourself trapped inside a classroom on a rainy day, staring at a daunting worksheet or test. Now... just add guitar and music. This is what you are giving our children everyday when you give to GITC. The chance to love learning more than they ever thought possible.
GITC wants you to have some stories to read as summer draws to a close, starting with this one from GITC trainer and Blues performer Robin O'herin. Robin began teaching with GITC just last year in Lee, Massachusetts. She held our first pilot program specially for teachers of students with special needs. We call that model MIRSE and you may have read about it already. It stands for Music Integration for Resource and Special Educators. She got 27 teachers in Lee all making and loving music! They did great and are ready for more training now. So the donations you are making this month are bringing the funds together for Robin to run a class for them there this fall. Here is the beginning of a story she wrote for our collection in Musical Miracles: Stories of MIRSE (pronounced "mercy") about her work with a student named Michael. To read the whole story, and others, simply write to me at email@example.com and I will email you back with the whole collection as an edocument. Then you can read how many of our trainers are finding musical ways to help young people overcome even the greatest challenges life dishes out. Please enjoy, thank you for your precious support, and please keep up the great work!
Yours for the teachers and kids,
Michael’s Story: Paying Attention on the Inside
by Robin O’Herin
His teachers told me that Michael always had to be in the spotlight. That he had a strong emotional need for validation from others. He would compulsively make himself the center of attention in every class. His teachers said this tendency frequently made Michael hard to deal with, disruptive, “a real handful.” He was a big boy, too, and he could generate a lot of noise and commotion. So it sounded to me like Michael did not know how to get what he needed in a positive or meaningful way- and that his teachers had become very frustrated. I was hoping music might be a constructive experience for them all.
I was invited to visit Michael’s school to lead an hour-long participatory musical Blues presentation for a mixed group of 25 special needs students, including this special young man. When I arrived in the room, I was happy to see it was a school lounge with informal living room furniture! I arranged couches and chairs in a roomy semi-circle, with a row of chairs behind them. This left space in the middle and back of the room for the students to be able to move around- an important part of the musical experience, especially for some of us who just do not like sitting still and others who learn best when in motion!
In short order, twenty-five high school students with a wide range of challenges arrived with their teachers, gradually finding seats or chose to stand in the back. The teachers had explained to the students they were going to attend a special concert, but they really did not know what to expect themselves so they had no idea how to prep their students for this musical experience. Everyone looked up at the front expectantly.
I am used to giving musical workshops and performances in the schools and can handle whatever comes up in the audience, but with special needs students, it was important for me to assess who was in the room as quickly as possible.
When Michael came into the room, he was very upset and started acting out. Not an easy start to our time! His teacher explained that this was because he couldn’t be up front and the center of attention. She took him into the back of the room and stood with him there. I felt instantly challenged to find a way to draw Michael into the activity and help him channel that big energy into something excellent.....