After my first day at Centeno Guell, I’ve spent most of my time there working with the same two classes. On Monday and Wednesday morning and Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I work with Marcela’s class. Monday and Wednesday afternoon and Tuesday and Thursday morning I work with Silvia’s class. Both of those teachers work in the same classroom but, as you might have guessed, one is there in the morning while the other comes in the afternoon! Both Marcela and Silvia have little kiddos that are around five years old.
Although I have enjoyed working with both classes, I especially like working with Marcela. She’s very bubbly, friendly, and open with me. Through her friendly nature, I hear a lot from her about the personalities of her students and what each of their strengths and weaknesses are. Having that knowledge has helped me to feel more comfortable with the kids in her class because I’m not relying solely on what I’ve observed through working with them.
Another thing I really like about Marcela is the amount of music she plays for her students. Part of their routine at the beginning of every class is to sing and sign along with a few children’s songs. Later in the day, they sometimes have either a little “relaxation” time or yoga, and she plays calm, relaxing music for those parts of the day. There are a couple things that I really wanted to share related to the music that Marcela plays.
I’ll start off by talking about Alexa, a little girl in Marcela’s class who has Down Syndrome. And when I say little, I mean little. Alexa is the smallest in her class. She is so tiny and cute, especially because she always wears her hair in pigtails. Although she doesn’t have a huge vocabulary, she is very social, talks quite a lot, and is rather bossy. She’s always calling me over to her, saying, “Venga! Venga!” and motioning with her hand for me to come. But even though she wants me to come, she always wants to do things on her own. Like when we were brushing teeth after lunch and she pushed me away, declaring, “Sola!“
I discovered rather quickly that Alexa likes music and loves to dance. When they sing songs at the beginning of class, she’s always clapping, signing, and singing along excitedly, and looking over to make sure that I’m doing the same. Marcela has a hard time getting her to lie down during relaxation time or do yoga because she’s always sitting up to dance along with the music.
Yesterday at recess Alexa’s love for dance became even more apparent. Today is a national holiday in Costa Rica, celebrating the annexation of the Guanacaste province. So yesterday morning one of the preschool classes was having their snack time outside, eating food that’s traditional in Guanacaste, and playing music while they ate. They happened to be right next to the playground, so the music was blaring while Marcela’s class was at recess.
At some point during recess, a few of the teachers noticed that Alexa was standing in the middle of the playground, all alone, dancing to the music. Soon all the teachers were watching and some pulled out their cameras and phones to take videos of her dancing. I watched her for at least five minutes, but I know she had be dancing long before I started watching. She was totally doing her own thing and entirely focused on doing it. She just danced her little heart out and it was so amazing.
I’ve also noticed that one of the only times that all of the students are engaged (besides maybe recess) during the day is when Marcela is leading them in singing and signing along with the songs at the beginning of class. I love watching them all smile, laugh, wiggle, and sing along with the music. It really opens some of them up when their norm is to be very much withdrawn.
This is true for Nancy in particular. I’m fairly certain that Nancy is autistic. She doesn’t talk and doesn’t interact with the other kids much. Usually she sits quietly until she’s told to do something else. But when the music is on, she lights up. She follows along with the movements that Marcela demonstrates for them. She smiles and laughs. Her laughter is beautiful. There have been a few times that she has actually made and held eye contact with me while they’re singing. When the music is playing she’s a different little person altogether, completely full of joy.
Music has influenced my life so strongly. I know that without music, the relationships I’ve made through it, and the lessons it has taught me, I would be an entirely different person. I can’t help but think about how crucial it must be for these kids to have music in their lives. It allows them a way to express themselves and an opportunity to come out of their shells. I don’t know if I’ve witnessed many things in my life that are as beautiful as watching those two little girls experience music.