by Susan Kellerman
High: Ninth Grade Music Class
The words “music theory” typically strike fear in the hearts and minds of developing musicians. With so much of the music in today’s world shared and learned via iPods, iTunes, Spotify or Pandora, it is rare to have students who actually understand, or even want to understand, the theory behind what they are hearing. However, as a music educator, it is important to me that, on some level, my older students have a basic understanding of the nuts and bolts of music as we know it in the western world. That is why, as I am focusing on Blues music with my 14-year-olds, this week we focused on intervals, scales, and triads (if those words mean anything to you)…all in the name of understanding the 12 Bar Blues progression-a key feature of any blues song. It wasn’t the most exciting material to discuss for an hour, but somehow I kept the attention of each student in the class and they were all actively engaged, asking questions, critically thinking and showing signs of comprehension. In the oppressive heat of an approaching Tanzanian summer, it gave me energy to finish out the day!
Low: Not being surrounded by a familiar support network
There are many amazing things about being an expat, however it’s not all a bowl of cherries. And, I think that friends and family back in the US sometimes forget that we, as expats, sacrifice many things for a life of adventure and travel. One of those things is being surrounded by family or a familiar support network during the tough times in life. This hit home today as I got word that a dear uncle of mine passed away overnight. Regardless of the fact that it wasn’t an immediate family member or that I wouldn’t get to see him often even if I did live in the US, it still is hard to receive and process this kind of news being so far away from family and close friends who know you well. Dealing with loss is something we each do in a very personal way and we all need just the right people to be near us during those times of loss. Being an expat means that sometimes, you have to grieve on your own or in a way that is not ideal. That will be my hurdle to jump over the next few days.
Glitter: Surprise Day Off!
Tanzania just went through a hotly-contested presidential election within the past two weeks. It was an interesting time to be here and I learned a bit about how elections work in another country. Unlike the US, where we wait several weeks to inaugurate the new president, here it apparently happens nearly immediately. Not quite a week ago was the winner announced, and already the inauguration is tomorrow. Living in a bit of a bubble, I had no idea this was going on. Neither were any students or teachers prepared when the outgoing president announced, just this afternoon, that tomorrow would be a national holiday. What does that mean? No school! I had students running into my classroom at the end of the day, bouncing up and down, asking me if it was true. Not only does it seem like Christmas for them, but the teachers are sometimes just as happy to have an unexpected day off as well!
Born, raised and educated in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Susan Kellerman decided to spend all her life savings during her senior year of high school and take a Spring Break trip to Spain with her Spanish teacher and fellow students. This was a watershed event, as it sparked her life-long interest in travel and a desire to one day live in Madrid. Fourteen years later, Susan was able to combine her career in music education with her desire to improve her Spanish speaking skills by accepting a job at the American School of Madrid. Currently, she is the music teacher and program coordinator at the International School of Moshi, in Tanzania and enjoying having Mt. Kilimanjaro as her backyard buddy.