My Learning Experience in Tokyo

This past week I spent most of my time in Tokyo participating in the teacher training workshop organized by Music Together. Music Together is an internationally acclaimed early childhood music education program developed in the United States and it has developed and transformed into a very solid and structured program with over two decades of history in its own field.

I first learnt about this program a year ago from my college classmate, who now resides in the United States and runs her own music center. When I first heard about the program, I was not convinced. I thought just like any early childhood music education program out there, it was just for fun and a course comprised of sing-along songs with some random body movements. As a classically trained pianist, it was hard for me to imagine that I would ever want to get my hands on teaching so-called “baby” classes: I could not imagine myself singing in high pitch and dancing around energetically with a big gleaning smile on my face the whole time (not that I am mean or anything : I think I am actually funny sometimes in my piano lessons but I am much more comfortable with my serious side).

Leaving behind the urgent matters of the school, I reluctantly dragged myself to the airport after a couple hours of rest, survived through the flight (I do love taking off to places by planes a lot but not for school!), got into the city and found my dwelling in the middle of nowhere in the early night in the winter days of Tokyo (we are talking about 5pm! Or even earlier). I rested early to prepare myself for the unknown training of three whole days (!) ahead.

When I got into the classroom the next morning (after taking a bit of the time to find the place and waited for an hour), the first thing I noticed was not about the training: we had to take off our shoes at the doorway. Well, it was certainly not the practice of the training but that of Japanese. Okay, maybe it was not entirely true: eventually it would require us to have shoes off anyway for the training etc.

If I recalled it correctly, the trainer of the program – whom I would have to talk about a lot of later – started off the class without words. Instead, she started moving her body and singing. And so we followed. It was strangely amazing. At first it seemed a bit odd and awkward for me, but it was actually fun! Even I might not get the movement correct or I did not even know the song well. That was the power of Music.

Susan the trainer (I did not get her last name until I read the teacher training book) was amazing in the program. I don’t even know what words I should use to describe this person. She has to be one of the most beautiful person I have ever met. She is an inspiring teacher and a person of integrity. The way she taught and spoke was just beautiful. Many times during the whole training I was feeling very overwhelmed by her teaching: the way she spoke really touched my heart and the words she used were the exact words that I always said and felt about music! She was so compassionate and non-judgmental, and truly thought and viewed from the perspective of the students (meaning us the trainees), children and parents. I would love to learn directly from her again if I ever have the chance to.

I cannot discuss about the content of the program here, but I have to say I have learnt so much from the workshop and Susan (and Nancy, another wonderful trainer) not only about the program alone, but also the way I can teach and how I can help guide students in their learning. And above all, I have learnt so much about myself that it was almost a self-reflection time in the whole workshop and I felt I had transformed myself into a new person, or more appropriately, come back to who I truly was as always.

I am so psyched about what I have learnt from the training now. I cannot wait to share the joy, beauty and fun of music with the children and parents! Music Together hurray!!

Susan and Me @ MT workshop, Tokyo, Japan, December 2014
Susan and Me @ MT workshop, Tokyo, Japan, December 2014
Nancy and Me @ MT Workshop
Nancy and Me @ MT Workshop, Tokyo, Japan, December 2014

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