A few months after the events of “The Power of Music – part 1” started I walked into a staff room at a technical college where I was teaching Music Technology. There was a rather heated discussion going on about students with disabilities doing music.
A rather amazing lady, who I become good friends with, was wanting to create music courses for her students with disabilities. I listened and a thought came to me. There was a cupboard with a whole load of Casio keyboards in it that no-one was using. I needed more work and on the back of my success teaching percussion to people with disabilities I entered the conversation with the suggestion that we could do a keyboard class with the Casio keyboards. Both women looked at me so I took them to the cupboard and boldly said that I could do a 1 hour class for 8 students (there were 9 keyboards) once a week for a whole term to trial it as long as they could pay me. The amazing lady grabbed the idea and ran with it. My boss basically said “This is on you, don’t fail.”
So the holidays started 2 days later for 2 weeks and I was booked to start my class on the first Monday back in the morning. Only thing is I had never learnt to play the piano and had to create a 10 week course in 2 weeks and learn the instrument as well. So I took one of the keyboards home and began to play.
The first Monday lesson started slowly and my first couple ideas went down badly and I was left with my last idea. The keyboard had a series drum tracks so I went around each student and gave them a drum track and said to them “please play me anything”. The laughter and fun that followed meant that every lesson after that started with the drum tracks. The rule was that if someone tried everyone applauded. This became the basis of teambuilding. By the end of the first term the excitement was electric in the classroom.
The second term started with an extra class and me with loads of ideas.
By the end of the year I had organised a concert evening for the friends and family of my students. The amazing lady had organised food and drinks from her budget and I had created a certificate for all the students to receive at the end of the evening. My boss was invited and came to the evening. She became a big supporter of the students with disabilities and the following year offered singing and acting courses.
I also had 4 keyboard classes run the whole year and the concert evening needed to move to a bigger venue and had a number of local press come and cover the evening. The students gave me an award for being a “Cool Teacher” but the truth was I learnt more from them than I ever thought I would.
Teaching the other students who mostly thought than they were budding rock stars who were entitled to tantrums gave me an appreciation for my Keyboard students. They loved what they did and appreciated each other. When one messed up a piece the others encouraged them to have another go and applauded louder when they succeeded. They arrived at lessons excited to be there and to be honest they were my favourite lessons as well.
Even after I had left the Creative Department they continued to embrace the students with disabilities and continued to grow their opportunities. They were simply young people who wanted to learn and have fun. People with disabilities are people first who want to same things as any other people and they have already overcome more than most ordinary can.