Carolyn's Story

A new Interactive Music-Maker tackles music during the pandemic: Carolyn (pictured, below) trained as an Interactive Music-Maker from September last year to this May, when she graduated straight into a nationwide Coronavirus lockdown. Now, in December, she’s back at Springfield Primary School in her role as Music Teacher for all year groups, adapting her working to the new world of bubbles and Zoom. We caught up about how she used music during the lockdown, and how she plans to continue Interactive Music-Making despite the many obstacles the coronavirus puts in our way.

'I’ll be starting my first IMM groups with Reception children this January... I feel more ready and prepared to start organising my sessions now; the CPD boosted my confidence enormously.  Just knowing that there’s someone willing to answer my emails with support is enough at the moment.'

What was your experience of graduating IMM into lockdown?  

Back in May, I knew I wouldn’t be able to start doing sessions straight away. However, IMM did make me rethink the thought processes and skills behind all that I plan to teach, even with older children – I have been using the Tri-Borough Music Recovery curriculum with the other children at my school during Autumn 2020, for example, combining IMM thinking with music for older children too. When I am able to start [doing IMM groups], it will make a huge difference to what I am able to deliver. I will be able to support our youngest Reception children with achieving their developmental goals, helping reduce any gaps and delays.

You followed the progress of one child in particular during your IMM training; can you tell us the impact you observed with him over the weeks of IMM?

Like all the children in my group, Dylan was chosen by his class teacher to be part of IMM to address specific needs. Though he was a confident boy, he needed to discover his sharing skills and willingness to speak directly to his teachers. Also like all of the children in my group, he needed to work on turn-taking and leadership. As expected, in the first session, Dylan was mainly non-verbal. However, as the first few sessions took place, I could see his confidence begin to grow - he knew what to expect and was enjoying IMM, and he was beginning to speak more, although he still struggled to maintain attention when it wasn’t his turn. By the fourth session there was a turning point - I felt that Dylan was ready to begin leading activities himself, and to share leadership with the children. By week five, he was just revelling in the chance to lead! I deliberately and consciously decided to focus on Dylan while he was leading… giving him unconditional positive regard throughout. By our final session… I deliberately didn’t get involved when he spoke to other children, who were accepting his leadership, too.   

‘You know why I chose Ms Adams? ‘Cos she was sitting nicely!’ – Dylan

Dylan has changed over the course of the IMM sessions from a, though confident in some ways, quiet and passive member of the group, to being confident enough to actually lead activities both physically and verbally, and I was so pleased with the progress he made. it would have been great to push him further, to give him even more experience of leading activities in the remaining two sessions - but the school had to be closed [due to Coronavirus]. Even so, the Reception team have commented that they’ve already seen a change in him! This shows that with the right environment and support to explore with confidence, children can make very impressive progress.

What was your experience of partaking in IMM as a music teacher (as opposed to early years practitioner)?

As a music teacher, I came to IMM from a different position than many of the other students. I had the music teaching experience, they had the experience of working with children in the EYFS.  However I would really recommend the course to teachers - IMM was great. I’m so glad my Head Teacher suggested it to me and that I received the funding to be able to do it. It’s very kinaesthetic and hands on, suitable for non-specialist practitioners, very accessible and worth the journey! It’s not a lecture – you can ask questions freely. The tutors are very supportive and friendly, full of good ideas and practical suggestions. It was great to meet a group of people who also see music as a priority to share ideas, experiences etc. It also rebuilt my confidence in my skills. My IMM training group still have a private Facebook group going where we keep up to date with what each of us is up to!

How have you been doing music at school since you returned to Springfield School (pictured) in September?

I’ve only been able to do face to face teaching with small class groups in the playground, at a 2m distance. Pretty much all music education at the school has been impacted by the pandemic:  I teach some classes through Zoom, and some children are being taught via pre recorded videos. Between all of these changes to my normal music teacher role, and the changes around the school, I haven’t been able to use my IMM training yet, but recently my Head Teacher and I decided that it was time to work around the challenges and make a plan to start my IMM groups. We are finding that there are high levels of need for the young children at the school, many with EHCP plans, and my skills as an Interactive Music-Maker are really needed right now. Even though I haven't been able to use IMM what I've done has been hugely influenced by the training... The Tri-borough Hub introduction and using their recovery curriculum instead of the national curriculum, for example... and using IMM concepts to think about barriers while planning music.

What are your plans for starting your IMM groups again?

I’ll be starting my first IMM groups with reception children this January – outside in a separate area with an isolated set of IMM instruments – the ones I was given with my IMM Award. Going to the CPD was really helpful for thinking about ideas and activities for my sessions outside, and how to make the most of the space and acoustics.  Sarah was amazingly positive and supportive.  She gave so many useful ideas for potential activities I could do in my outside space and it was also good to have confirmation for some of my logistical ideas.  I feel more ready and prepared to start organising my sessions now; It’s boosted my confidence enormously.  Just knowing that there’s someone willing to answer my emails with support is enough at the moment.

Thank you to Carolyn for sharing her IMM Story so far. If you are interested in becoming an Interactive Music-Maker, or have your own Story to share, please do get in touch. And don't forget we have a separate, dedicated IMM site: www.interactivemusicmaking.org

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