students as teachers

One of the main principles that inspires the work of Sympatico is the idea of students as teachers.  When students become teachers, they are able to build their confidence, develop interpersonal skills, and assist others.  When students are teachers, they also understand that they are a part of an ensemble (and program) that only works if all of its parts function and work together, as a team.  This is even more important at Sympatico, since our program seeks to create spaces within which students can take ownership of their role in an interdependent ensemble.  Perhaps an example will make this clearer.

Earlier this morning, Strings at Sunrise director Lindsey Serrao was inspired to work with Sympatico’s Keetman Ensemble.  Both are before-school ensembles, creating an opportunity for cross-ensemble collaboration.  With the help of the Keetman Ensemble, she decided to match each Strings at Sunrise (SaS) student with one member of the Keetman Ensemble.  The task was for the SaS students to teach part of a piece they have been working on, Rustic Dance, to the Keetman students, translating it from string instruments to keyboard percussion.  Students paired up, sharing instruments, and the work began.

Immediately, all students became involved.  The SaS students took their task to heart, reading through the music and putting it onto the xylophones and metallophones.  The Keetman students stayed focused and remained attentive, learning from their SaS counterparts as if looking up to an older sibling.  Whether teaching or learning, all students were engaged and concentrated on the task at hand, turning early morning sleepiness into a hum of determined activity.

At the end of the session, students performed the first third of the piece, which they had been working on throughout the morning.  The SaS students continued to guide their protégés through the task, singing and pointing along as the piece progressed.  Moreover, the Keetman students were able to understand the rhythms and melodies, as well as the relationship between each part.  Lindsey’s inspired thinking benefited more than just her students this morning, as she created a space for individual students to see the ways in which they are part of a bigger whole.

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