One of the things I enjoyed about teaching elementary music was helping my students connect their experiences in music class with life outside the walls of the music room. Whether singing folk songs, romping around the room to singing games and folk dances, or learning about and creating music through movement, sound, and symbol, students had plenty of opportunities to make broad, meaningful connections between music and their everyday lives. I also found that as students explored the contextual elements of a song or musical piece, extending their awareness beyond the obvious, the experience promoted deep learning and made quite an impact on their young minds.
In her book, The Power of Mindful Learning (1997), Ellen Langer discusses the psychological and physical benefits of “mindful learning” (p. 4). It is an approach to learning that, according to Langer, involves a continuous interplay between “(1) openness to novelty; (2) alertness to distinction; (3) sensitivity to different contexts; (4) implicit, if not explicit awareness of multiple perspectives; and (5) orientation in the present” (p. 23).
Well, what (you may wonder) does this have to do with Perspectives? Actually, I see a good bit of relevance between Langer’s definition of mindful learning, the research-based focus of Perspectives, and the needs of early childhood music and movement educators.
In much the same way we strive to help our students look beyond the obvious and discover ways to connect their learning experiences to a broader understanding that is mindful and relevant, so, I believe, we must do the same for ourselves professionally.
Throughout the ranks of ECMMA, our members represent varied backgrounds and areas of professional interest, and – whether participating in how-to workshops, sharing ideas with colleagues about best teaching practices, or receiving and maintaining certification credentials to meet the ever-changing needs of students – they value the importance of fostering their professional development. Nevertheless, as early childhood music and movement educators, it is equally important for us to acknowledge the professional value of being mindfully informed and challenged by information that reaches beyond the obvious within our field and encourages us to make meaningful connections with new ideas from other fields.
Just as we hope our students will accept the challenge to stretch beyond the expected boundaries of learning, I hope the features in this and upcoming issues of Perspectives will encourage you to grow and think professionally in mindful and creative ways.
Angela Barker, PhD
Langer, E. J. (1997). The Power of Mindful Learning. Cambridge: MA. Perseus Books.