Monday, January 31, 2011

Grade Four

Starting in kindergarten, I heard about grade 4.

It's a big year academically, with many new concepts being introduced. It is the big year in elementary school. Over the next 4 years I heard about getting letter grades (as opposed to a comment-driven) report card. I heard about homework and the province-wide testing in grade 4.

With my brain always in planning overdrive and my ear keen to the ground, I thought I had a good handle on all that grade 4 would entail.

Day 1 of grade 4 we received an expansive document outlining the responsibilities and expectations (bring materials to class, do homework) of the student, the consequences for failure to meet up with the standard (affects grade). It was two pages single-spaced and required a parental signature. Very serious stuff. We were definitely not in Kansas anymore.

And that was just for music class.

In the prior four years of school, music was a place to go and beat on drums and sing songs. Now there were written expectations, a code of grades and an instrument to master, namely our new nemesis, the recorder.

Students were expected to practice.

For the first couple weeks of school, Jackson didn't yet have his recorder. Then once he got the recorder, he disavowed any notion that he had to practice. Somewhere in October I spied a disturbing trend on Facebook: other parents of grade 4 kids were complaining mightily about having to endure recorder practice. I asked Jackson about this and he steadfastly maintained no requirement to practice. One friend told me that she understood there to be a test the next day. I naturally assumed he had the latent recorder prodigy gene.

The teacher ingeniously has devised (or uses) a system "belts" that the kids can learn for their recorder practice: like the belts in karate which is helpful in motivating the kids to practice. The kids practice a few songs, then play one for the teacher. If they play well enough they get a piece of yarn to tie around their recorder as a badge of honour and start working on the next belt.  Pure genius. Unless you have a kid that is a tad tightly wound who TRIES to earn, say, his yellow belt and nerves get the best of him and he does not succeed and a bundle of stress comes home to Mommy. Not, of course, that I would know anything about this.

Jackson and I have worked hard to maintain an excellent routine about the recorder practice. I will add that the one thing my brain remembers from elementary school is how to play the recorder and it is finally doing me some good. Because he has denied any memory of learning what any of the notes are, that denial on par with a certain 82 year old three decade Egyptian dictator.

Because I know other parents and kids will want to follow our example, here is our well-honed procedure to mastering the recorder:

Step 1: I politely request that Jackson come to practice the recorder.

Step 2: Jackson politely pretends he didn't hear me.

Step 3: I politely repeat request in louder voice.

Step 4: Jackson impolitely refuses.

Step 5: I impolitely threaten to suspend some kind of electronic privilege.

Step 6: Jackson stomps to living room for practice.

Step 7: Jackson picks up recorder and blows with full force until glass chandelier trembles.

Step 8: I calmly point him to music piece he is to practice.

Step 9: Jackson plays one bar beautifully.

Step 10: Sydney enters room to request water/snack/Mommy's attention.

Step 11: Jackson gets distracted and tries to play but odd squeak comes from instrument.

Step 12: Jackson throws book across room.

Step 13: I repeat threat of electronics suspension.

Step 14: Jackson moans that he has recorder disability.

Step 15: I tell him he doesn't and he does not have option of withdrawing from grade 4 music.

Step 16: Jackson grudgingly returns to practice with an "but I'm warning you I am really, really, really, bad at this"

Step 17: In 4 minutes he beautifully masters song and I have dreams of him becoming an international recorder star.

I have repeatedly requested that we skip steps 2 through 16 but Jackson is a stickler for staying with the programme, so it's pretty much the same story every time we practice, which is about 2 to 4 times a week, depending on how much alcohol we have on hand.

More on grade four to follow.

1 comment:

Misha said...

LOL! Recorder practice equivalent to the amount of alcohol on hand. Pure genius. LOL