What Teaching Kids Music Taught Me

I joined a volunteer group called the Music Teachers of Isla Vista and taught music to elementary school students. Because I have a musical background, I really wanted to continue doing music in some way, shape or form. I thought joining band at UCSB would be too much, but then I found this volunteer group. I had been used to teaching a new instrument to people similar to my age from my years in band, but I had never taught the basics of music to someone under the age of ten. Here are some things that I learned from teaching music to children: 


  1. 1. Sometimes Baby Steps Are Not Small Enough

    When starting a new instrument, there’s a lot that needs to be learned, like basic notes and rhythms all the way to entire pieces. I taught two students, and both of them were in the fourth grade. Now imagine teaching fourth graders all these complicated concepts when they have absolutely no prior exposure to music... I was a ukulele teacher, so I focused on teaching chords rather than notes. I learned that it was best to teach them the chords that only required one finger at a time rather than ones that required more than one. Once they felt more comfortable, they felt more confident and wanted to learn more chords. By slowing it down, I was able to get through to them more successfully.

  2. 2. Anything Can Be a Teaching Method

    Since learning new concepts can be difficult to grasp, using unique methods of teaching things to children can help them understand it better. For example, the D chord on ukulele can be hard for children with small hands to learn. Therefore, I told them to pretend that their hand was a crab claw, and to create that shape with their hands whenever they played the D chord. The G chord can also be hard, so I told my students to remember it as the “triangle” chord, since they create a triangle shape with their fingers whenever they play it. 

  3. 3. Patience is a Thin, Thin String, but it Can Get Longer

    Kids have very short attention spans. Both pf my students were friends, so they constantly had side conversations during lessons and would forget what they learned in less than five seconds. It’s frustrating sometimes, but I learned how to handle it after more time passed.

  4. 4. Elementary School Drama is Piping Hot

    In elementary school, one day someone will be your best friend, and the next day they won't be, and that’s just how it works. Both of my students were good friends at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year they were not speaking to each other. I heard both sides of the story and they didn’t match up at all, but basically, they both liked the same boy (and you know what happens from there). 

  5. 5. Bring in the Candy Only When it’s Necessary!

    Kids will do anything for candy. My students once sat attentively for an entire hour because I promised to get them gummy worms. But once they get used to receiving candy, kids can take advantage of you and start expecting candy. So only use it when you absolutely have to!

Although they were a handful, teaching music at Isla Vista Elementary taught me a lot about what it means to teach children and how to make it the most rewarding experience for the students, as well as myself. 

*All Images via Giphy