Friday, August 8, 2008

Kindermusik Community

This was an article that was published in the latest issue of E-Notes which is a publication that goes out to all licensed Kindermusik teachers around the world.

Educator Article: A Kindermusik Community by Mary DiCesare

Kindermusik Community

One of the most important things I experienced from this first year of teaching was the beauty of the Kindermusik community created over the course of the semester. Initially, I had prepared a "Class Policies" sheet that included gentle language culled from many other Class Policy forms I had viewed at various websites online. It seemed that all of them included a reference to parents not talking during class. Some were worded more harshly then others, but they all included the "no talking" rule in one form or another. So I included it in mine and was prepared to enforce it as needed.

After three or four classes, however, I soon came to see and appreciate the need to allow a little informality here and there throughout the class for talking, as it was the path to communing and creating a beautiful place to be. I was particularly taken with my Village classes. As I observed the moms bonding, the friendships forming, the laughter, smiles, and overall relaxed atmosphere, I came to appreciate what was happening on many levels. I got to know the parents (and grandparents) in my Village class and began to learn the many different reasons these parents had come to Kindermusik Village. As I learned the different goals and expectations of my parents, I became more aware of my role as facilitator, realizing that there was a careful balance I needed to maintain.

I have many new mothers, with their first baby, who are looking to connect with other mothers. I hear them talking with the more experienced moms about bits of behavior that puzzle them or health related topics, only to be reassured that that's normal, or to be given a piece of advice to try. I hear these same new mothers relating with the other new mothers about how hard it is to be at home alone with an infant all day, or how hard it is to get out of the house and get anywhere on time.

Several of my new moms work at a local bio-tech company known for its long hours, but flexibility for family. I had these new mothers join during their maternity leave and then continue with me after they had gone back to work, having made arrangements to take this morning hour as their "lunch" hour to attend Village with their infant. I see how valuable and meaningful this 45-minute class is for them to be with their baby for this precious bonding time. I also see how eager they are to connect with other moms who have same age children. This is an opportunity for them to leave the very "adults only" work world and be part of the very child-centered stay-at-home moms' world.

I have many stay-at-home moms. Several attend with friends they are already very familiar with and they look forward to seeing each other each week. Often these moms have several children and are running in many directions each day, making it hard to always see their friends. This class gives them that time to look forward to. These same moms find it hard to get "uninterrupted" bonding time with their new infant because so often schedules and activities are based upon the older siblings, and the newest family addition gets taken along to the older siblings sports, music, scouts, etc. These moms are really happy to find a special activity appropriate for their new baby and that one-on-one time they have been craving with this infant.

One of my moms last year had four children, the last two being twins. She told me that someone had given her advice while she was still pregnant to be sure to schedule one activity alone with each twin. One of the activities she chose was Village. The first 8-week session she brought one of her twin boys. The second 8-week session she brought the other twin, so that they both enjoyed the benefits of Kindermusik. While she was telling me this story, another mother joined in to tell her that she also had twins, now full grown, and that that was wonderful advice, encouraging her to continue giving each of the twins his own one-on-one time with mommy.

I also had new moms who had recently moved to the neighborhood and were able to make new friends in my classes. I watched as week after week they grew to know each other and began making plans to get together outside of class. Having moved myself to California from New York, and having my first child that first year here, I could really appreciate those connections that were happening.

There was only one time when I felt the need to include a note in my weekly e-newsletter reminding parents to be sensitive to talking so that everyone is able to participate in singing and are able to hear the Foundations of Learning. It was during this class that I became aware of the community we had created. Rather than be upset that too much talking was going on, it made me aware of how much these parents were enjoying themselves! However, I did see one or two of the newer moms straining to hear my FOLs so I felt the need for a reminder. It seemed to do the trick. Usually, though, the chatter occurs at the start and end of class, and during transitions such as object exploration or instrument play.

Overall, I feel the experiences of my first Village classes have made me more aware of my role as facilitator to create a well-balanced environment where one-on-one bonding time is respected and protected, while still fulfilling the adults' need for support and friendship. Getting to know parents on a personal level, and utilizing the new Kindermusik Loyalty Survey, will provide me with candid on-going feedback as that classroom experience will change with each new class semester. Using both approaches provides parents the opportunity to give me direct feedback face-to-face, or anonymously through the survey.

I am located in an area where Word-of-Mouth has an enormous impact on local business. Knowing what my parents want and using their feedback to improve my own skills as a facilitator will help me to grow professionally, retain families, and gain a competitive edge through referrals.

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