a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Friday, May 29, 2015

Teaching music in Myanmar

I can hardly contain my excitement for what I’m writing about in this post! Today I signed a contract to become the lower primary music teacher at Myanmar International School! (click on the school name and it will take you to the website.)

I love working with children whose first language is not English. I first discovered the thrill of sharing my first language with children in a public school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I read Dr. Seuss’s ABC book acting out as many words as I could…”Big A little a…what begins with A?” When we got to "Big V little v..." and one little boy said “violin” while miming playing a violin (an imitation of my movement), I felt a zing of connection with those children and a strong sense that I was designed to do this type of work.

In Cambodia, I took a leap of faith and accepted a job teaching preschool children though I had no specific early childhood education training. I found preschool children to be the most delightful age group I had ever worked with. I used music and movement to support my English language instruction, and my darling little students loved all the singing and dancing we did together.

When Stephen and I decided to move to Myanmar, I had ideas about what a job for me might look like. I thought I might teach English as a foreign language but I didn’t know to what age students or in what school. I had thought about learning Burmese first, before starting a teaching job, so as to better communicate with and understand my students. Though my love is preschool children, I thought maybe my skills would be put to better use working with older students who had more English proficiency. As we settled into our life in Yangon, I thought about teaching but didn’t know what path or direction I should take.

Then two Fridays ago I spent the whole day painting, a type of meditation for me, and by the end of the day I had this strong sense that I should start looking for a job. I love painting and drawing: it is a significant part of who I am, but on Friday I felt that I also want to teach. Now, not later. It seems that when either painting or teaching are not a part of my life, I feel like something is missing. So that night Stephen and I looked online for schools close to our apartment. We found The Yangon Academy and Myanmar International School, both only short walks away. I decided to try both schools and see what openings they had. From the online school calendar, I discovered that the school year was about to end and the next school year wouldn’t start until August. Perfect. Time enough to prepare for the new year. Since the school year for Myanmar International School ended this week and Yangon Academy’s school year doesn’t end until the middle of June, I decided to go to MIS first. My hope was to be able to speak with the principal before school let out for the summer.

On Tuesday I walked the 1 kilometer to MIS with my resume. When I walked through the gate of the school, a guard gestured for me to check in. I told the other guard sitting at the desk that I had come to apply for a teaching job. He called the office secretary and I had to speak to her on the phone first before I was allowed to enter the building. I then had to sign in and was given a visitor’s pass to wear. Once inside the building I told the secretary I was there to inquire about the job openings I had seen on the website. She left and another woman came out and said, “Do you have your CV?” I gave it to her and she had me wait in the foyer. After I waited a few minutes she came back out and asked me to wait 15 minutes to see the principal and this time invited me to sit inside the office. After awhile, Anna came out and invited me into her office. We had an impromptu interview and Anna told me what she needed at the school and if I would be interested. What she needed was a music teacher for ages 3-7 years old. Teaching music to preschool children!!! I’m not sure I could have dreamed up a better job for myself. And not only that but Anna also suggested that maybe I teach piano lessons as an after school activity!

My first career was not classroom teaching but piano teaching. When I graduated from college I became a full-time piano teacher. I had a marvelous time as a piano teacher. When I decided to get my Master in Teaching degree, my hope had been to be a primary school teacher during the day and then after school give piano lessons to a few students. I found out just how ambitious that dream was and I was never able to make it happen. Maybe now I will.

This week I visited the school several times. I met with the lower primary principal and the upper primary music teacher, walked around in my music classroom in the lower primary building and saw most of the children who will be my students next year when I attended the lower primary awards assembly.

Now I have two months to prepare for the next year. I spent all afternoon yesterday reading my new book for teaching music that I purchased for Kindle. It was published in 2015 so it’s one of the most current music teaching resources available. :) I’m making lists of songs and children’s books I already know and love to write into lesson plans. I’m practicing my sight singing…

I think it’s going to be a fun year!

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