Pressure on Kids at School
This is what Alexis Scangas, a public school teacher, tries to get through to her K - 5th grade students. Western-style teaching methods are all about perfection and rote memorization, resulting in stressed out kids whose curiosity plummets as the pressure rises. Kids shut down and lose self-esteem over time as a result. They become shy of taking guesses, thinking they have to get the answer right the first time, otherwise they feel wrong and stupid.
Alexis wants to change this, so she recently reached out to Mary Kogen for help. She knew from personal experience as a teenager that through TaKeTiNa, Mary tries to counteract the habit of thinking ‘I gotta get it right’.
From 2008 – 2015, Mary led TaKeTiNa with high school students at the Summer Youth Music School at the University of New Hampshire. For one hour each day, Mary would get kids laughing with each other, and at themselves.
TaKeTiNa begins with participants in a circle. A drummer is in the center, and Mary goes from circle to the in-between space, addressing everyone both personally and as a group. The process begins with speaking rhythmic syllables while the drum keeps the beat. Simple steps are added to go along, and soon everyone is moving and stepping, sometimes to the beat, sometimes not.
Claps are added as well as some call and response singing. Bodies move in and out of rhythm, creating some tension, some laughter, some flow, some chaos. The internal critic can be strong, especially with high schoolers, but TaKeTiNa allows them to silence that self-judgment and revel in the learning and in their own rhythmic body – some only now realize they even had one!
Alexis as a Student
Mary remembers Alexis as one of the girls who would get up with Mary at 6:30 in the morning before classes even started. They joined Mary on her walks where she would play the caxixi (a small, basket-like rattle) and sing, and the girls eventually joined in. “That’s what changed me,” Alexis remembers.
Incorporating TaKeTiNa Learnings in Teaching
Modeling is another way to let kids understand that knowing everything isn’t the goal, or even expected. Mary says “If I don’t know what I’m doing, I tell the kids, and I ask for help. I ask them ‘Did that work? Why?’” You’d be amazed at the answers, she says. Kids will give you direct feedback, ideas, and also hopefully gain a sense that even the adult doesn’t have it together all the time, and values trial and error.
The whole exchange was such a heart-warming reminder of how TaKeTiNa can touch and transform one high school kid, now an adult. What a great effect its had on her own teaching style even 10 years later!