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Introduction

In this episode of the Crescendo Music Education podcast, I continue my conversation with Deb Brydon about intentional collaboration. I really value working with her; you’ve probably worked that out already. If you didn’t listen to the episode before this, go back and listen to that first, because this is the second part where we get to talk further about working together, and quite a few other things about our music education journey. I hope you love listening to Deb as much as I do.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 022 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.

Debbie and Deb Brydon at Parliament House after the Kodály National Conference in Canberra, 2022.

Episode 22 “Read the Episode” Transcript

Debbie
We’re making this all sound really really rosy working together.

Deb Brydon
Yes.

Debbie
And it is pretty amazing. In fact, I wonder what, what I did. Like, I’ve worked with lots of other fabulous people, Anne O’Regan and I used to do planning together and now I’m on the Kodály committee again. And when I was on the Kodály committee, before you joined, I’ve worked with lots of people that are amazing, as well. And Judy Johnson of course, as you’ve mentioned, and amazing people, but is it always that rosy? Or are there some pitfalls? And if there are pitfalls? How do we avoid them?

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Intentional Collaboration

Deb Brydon
So well, frankly, the partnerships only as good as the partners are. So you know, you’ve got to be honest upfront about your capability, including your time capability. And, you know, there will be times even with you and I working together, Debbie, when one of us will say, look, that’s just not going to happen this week, or the other one will say, like, I might say to you, Debbie, you know, you can’t do that this week.

And yeah, you know, you know, we’re good like that for each other but I think really, you have to commit to each other. And, and it’s not going to work if you’re both not committed, or the group of you aren’t committed if there’s more than two. And, you know, disagreement, of course, is going to be a pitfall. Really, if you’re working together, I found that mostly, you’ll come to a point where you find a common ground.

But seriously, if it’s not happening, don’t push it, just work alongside each other on slightly different tasks. And you know, even though we’ve got the mind meld thing happening between us now after working together for so many years, there are times when our different contexts require different tasks, and there’s no point pushing to find a common task or a common whatever it is, if it’s not going to work.

So I guess it’s recognising when it’s not going to work, and supporting each other in that way instead, yeah, so I guess yeah, they’re the pitfalls, I guess. And look time. I think a pitfall for us, Debbie, is that we get so excited about it, that it gets bigger and bigger. And sometimes we have to remember to what’s that saying? Appreciate the average or rest in the average. Do you remember what I’m talking about? Debbie? That Astrid said to us? Dwell in the average, live in the in the average, the great average or something? Sometimes average is okay.

Debbie
Yes.

Deb Brydon
And you need to get out and do something different and have a work life balance. Yes. And that can be a pitfall is that you get so excited, and it grows and it gets bigger than it needs to be?

Intentional Collaboration Requires Communication
Intentional Collaboration Requires Communication

Debbie
Yes. Sometimes B plus is okay.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, even a B is okay.

Debbie
Even a B, yeah. And you know, in some things, even a C is a pass.

Deb Brydon
Yeah.

Debbie
And that’s something we both have a little trouble with, I think.

Deb Brydon
Yeah. Uh huh, and maybe a C is okay for now. And next year, you’ll make it into a B, you know, because you can’t get an A on everything every time. You just can’t you. What will you do next year? You got to bring something. Leave something for future Debbie to do as well?

Debbie
Yes, we can’t. We can’t have future Deb and Debbie bored. So it’s about being honest too isn’t it?

Deb Brydon
I agree.

Debbie
With your partner or your group of people. And just being honest enough to say that sounds great I really won’t have time to do that. You know.

Deb Brydon
Yeah.

Debbie
And then I think as long as you’re honest, you can appreciate that and there are sometimes times when you get to work with a group well, that you can kindly call someone out. Yeah, like you can say as Deb may have done to Debbie a couple of times in PDs. Okay. Debbie.

We’re not going, no, we don’t have time for that let’s come back here. So I think once you trust someone too, you can call them out a bit and say that sounds exciting, but lets save that.

Deb Brydon
Yes, agree.

Debbie
All right. So what advice would you give to someone who wants to work more collaboratively?

Deb Brydon
I’d say just start, find someone and start on one project. It’s not like marriage, you can have different partners for different projects. And if things are not amazing, you can try someone else. You’re not committed for life. You know, just do something. And you know, I certainly, you know, you may not know this, but you’re not the only person that I collaborate on things with.

Debbie
Oh, I know. How do I cope with it, I try to not think about it.

Deb Brydon
Or sometimes, we collaborate with a third person or a fourth person as well. As I said, it’s not like marriage, you know. And I think the other thing is, distance is no excuse. You know, as music teachers, we talk about oh our job is so isolating, I’m the only one here. It doesn’t matter, you can find a way if you want to do it.

Debbie and I started most of our intentional collaboration on the phone, on our commute to work. Unfortunately for Debbie, I don’t have a commute to work anymore because I live 400 meters from my school.

Debbie
It was very sad when you lost your commute.

Deb Brydon
However, we’ve found other ways. But you know, it’s just finding those little moments and emails and Facebook messages, you know, are just as good and in fact, I think probably better sometimes than being right there, because you’ve got that little bit of time to respond and to think. So that would be my advice. Get on with it. Find someone, do something.

Debbie
Yeah, I love it. Just do it, a bit of Nike action there.

Deb Brydon
Yeah absolutely.

Debbie
Okay, now, that one, probably our little chat about gratitude, should probably have been up around people influential in your life shouldn’t it, just out of order, but doesn’t matter. I think I like to talk to my guests about gratitude because I think it’s important. For what are you most grateful?

For What Are You Most Grateful?

Deb Brydon
Well of course, I’ve got to start with my family, my faith and my friends, and living where I do, but more relevant to this conversation, a job that I love. I honestly do love it. But also, I’m committed to loving it. If I’m not loving it, I find a way to make changes. I want to get up each day and be excited about something happening that day.

I’m excited that year twos are starting canons this semester, and we can do our whole, you know, Canon sequence. I’m excited about that. But yeah, sometimes you do have to make changes to maintain the love. Yeah. And I think the other thing I’m really grateful for is just a network of amazing collaborators and colleagues who have become fabulous friends as well, which you know, is beautiful.

Being a Great Intentional Collaborator Requires Gratitude
Being a Great Intentional Collaborator Requires Gratitude

Debbie
I love that. Certainly reasons to be grateful. And now it’s time for the nuggets of fabulous. For all of our listeners, three of your all time favorite things, resources, activities, songs, games, anything. Nuggets of fabulous from Deb Brydon.

Nuggets of Fabulous

Deb Brydon
Do you know, I was surprised that I struggled thinking about this, I was trying to think of something shiny and exciting but then I brought myself back to think about what things that I use in my classroom all the time, that I really love. So the first one is Musical Beginnings, the DVD resources. I don’t actually use the DVD in the classroom, but all of the resources.

I still use this all the time and the repertoire on that is the basis of my prep program and even into grade one, such a great collection of repertoire. And you know, the little pictures and things like that I use them all the time in my classroom. So that’s my first one. If you haven’t bought it, get out there and buy it seriously, you will not regret it. The second one is paddle pop sticks. What is that kind of crazy?

Debbie
No, I love paddle pop sticks. I love them.

Deb Brydon
You know I really do love my paddle pop sticks and I have all the multicolored ones. And I know you have the plain ones Debbie.

Debbie
I have plain. I know which is odd, imagine me having plain paddle pop sticks.

Deb Brydon
Something has to be plain in your classroom Debbie. But I love the bright colors on the dark carpet. I love it. But do you know what else I love which is a little bit crazy? Shows, you know my little personality traits I suppose, is the way that I store them is in old glasses cases, like spectacle cases from the optometrist.

I went and got a whole heap so each child gets one little case with their little selection of paddle pop sticks in them. And the kids love it too. And there’s all different ones and they’re all pretty and it’s exciting. But what do I use them for? I use them to create rhythmic patterns on the floor, rhythmic dictation, composition, and all that sort of thing. But kids really love them.

Debbie
Yeah just quicker and more fun than pencil and paper.

Deb Brydon
So much more fun.

Debbie
Mind you I’m sure you do use pencil and paper as well, that’s important.

Deb Brydon
Oh I do, but its about the variety, for me and the children.

Debbie
Yeah, but much more fun to use paddle pop sticks. Love them.

Deb Brydon
And my third one is a song called Yuggera Djarra-Na, which you know, as well Debbie, is magic. It’s a great song. And look, I had the privilege a few years ago of working, intentionally collaborating, with the fabulous Megan Laurie-Thomson a few years ago now, when this song was written as part of a project with some local Yuggera elders.

Yuggera is the name of the language that the Aboriginal people in our area speak and we worked with some children and some elders and some teachers from other schools, about four or five, four schools or something joined together and wrote this song, and Yuggera Djarra-Na means on Yuggera country. So every year I teach every child in the school this song, and we sing it on assembly as part of our NAIDOC celebrations and other times of the year. So it’s just fabulous and brings up so many great conversations about indigenous culture and yeah, just about the Yuggera language as well.

And I love being able to share this with my students, and them being able to take it home, they go home and I had an email just recently from a parent, which just made me laugh and laugh, about this song and just saying, look, my child in grade one has come home. They’re singing this song. It’s an Aboriginal song about Uncle Billy. And I don’t know what it is.

And like, well, we’re only singing one at the moment. So I know what it is, and I read through the words and it says nga ngahmbili and so he’s you know, heard Uncle Billy. For me now this song’s called Uncle Billy, if you want to find this song, go and do it. Just search on the internet, you’ll find it Yuggera Djarra-Na and Debbie will probably put it in the show notes.

Debbie
I will put the link because you can download the resource and use it, and you can the lyrics video is on YouTube. I do it with my school as well and we sing it each week, I nearly said, sometimes we do.

Deb Brydon
Sometimes I hate this song as well. When you’re singing it with 36 classes for three weeks in a row. It’s a little bit much, you’re ready for it to be over for a bit.

Debbie
But what I meant to say was we do it as part of our NAIDOC Week celebrations and that’s slowly growing within our school. So my schools on Yuggera country but also Turrbal land. So we sort of acknowledged both of those groups.

So we do Yuggera Djarra-Na, and one of the good things about this song is that the chorus is in Yuggera language, but the verses are all in English. So that it is a nice, I guess introduction to the children who don’t know the language because they only need to learn language in the chorus.

Deb Brydon
It’s repeated so often anyway.

Debbie
In fact, it’s the part they learn first. And we know how amazing little brains are like the preps and the year ones, they pick up the chorus almost instantly. Although sometimes maybe, what is that a mondegreen it’s called, with Uncle Billy.

Deb Brydon
Uncle Billy. Yep.

Debbie
That is great. worth looking that up too. And you also when that project was done, I seem to recall, and you can correct me Deb, if I recall incorrectly, that you can take this song to your local language group, and you can get them to provide a translation, so the chorus the words mean, you, me and everyone on Yuggera country – Nginda, ngari nga ngahmbili, Yuggera djarra-na and you can take it to your language group and get it translated into your local language. And you have the permission to do that. Yes?

Deb Brydon
Yes, yes. In fact, Gaja Kerry, who’s the main elder who worked on it with us, she’s excited when that happens. And you know, it sort of spreads the love.

Debbie
Yes. And if you do had, please let them know. Oh, yes, they would love to hear that. They are three great nuggets of fabulous Deb, I’m glad you went with stuff that is really useful for you. Because that’s what people want to know.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, it seems a bit every day to me, but if you haven’t heard it before, go find it. It’s great.

Debbie
And even if you have heard it, it’s good to be reminded. And at this time when music education or music educators seem to have to fight even harder for our existence. Now, you and I are very lucky because we are both in schools where we feel valued and generally the value of music education is known.

That is not happening everywhere, what advice do you give to our listeners around advocacy around the importance of what we do?

The Importance of Advocacy

Deb Brydon
Yeah, look, I think advocacy begins in your classroom or your own school. It’s about making your work visible to administrators, to classroom teachers, children themselves and the parent community, showing them how important and fabulous what happens in your classroom actually is. So I’ve just written down a few things of what I do for this.

For administrators, things like copying them into emails, so you can tell them fabulous things, being positive, being helpful and not being the problem, finding the solution. And yeah, just keeping them, not letting music become a silo in your school, keeping them involved.

Classroom teachers, I think one thing is showing them that you care about their children, because classroom teachers are with these kids a lot more than we are and they develop really close relationships, and they are protective of their children, as they should be. But isn’t it great if we can show them that were part of that as well, giving them a positive about their class when they pick them up, showing them some fabulous work, sharing work samples with them, working as a team, especially for those children who need a little bit more help? Yeah, once again, it’s about not being a silo.

I’m the music teacher. No, I’m a teacher, I’m part of the team here at this school and our job collectively, is to support these students. So it’s being visible about that too. The children, being explicit about what they’re learning. So talking about them. and this is something I got from fabulous Maree Hennessy as well, talking about them as musicians, as composers, as performers, we are musicians, we’re not learning to be musicians, we’re making music now, we are musicians.

Talking about the brain development that’s going on, showing them their progress, you know, as they’re starting to learn an instrument and saying, look, this is really hard right now, isn’t it, but in three months time, you’re going to be able to play this song, and then talking, you know, talking backwards about it as well, so that they can get excited about their learning as well.

Parents, I think this is really important, sharing the children’s work. So one thing that I’ve developed over a number of years, I have not been able to do this just in one-year boom off you go. But I send home a parent information sheet for prep to three every term. So this has a sample of children’s work on it, and three or four songs that we’ve been singing, in the hope that children will go home and sing them with their parents.

Look, I’m a realist. I know that doesn’t always happen. But if it happens for you know, two or three kids, then that’s, that’s cool, that’s worthwhile. And also a couple of paragraphs about what we’ve been doing, and some research about the value of music education. But I also put articles in every newsletter, and we have a newsletter once a fortnight, and this year, I’ve been the best at it I ever have, a couple of years ago I got quite good at it and then it dropped off for a little bit there have picked that back up again, at my new school.

I try to put a little picture in so there’s a visual to attract people, and some comments about research or a mini article about like the value of performing, or something like that in each one. Takes a little bit of work but it’s also good for me, because it focuses me on this and on the importance of what I’m doing and you know, makes me think, oh, yeah, that’s right, I need to give them more performance opportunities, or whatever it is.

And inviting parents into your classroom, the best advocacy is when they see what’s going on. Look, COVID really got in the way of this. But open classrooms are fabulous, as are performances that come out of your classroom work. I think some people call them informances, where there’s information as well as the performance, but any opportunity where you can put what is going on in your room in front of people.

And I also think about value adding, so you know, the school information comes out what’s going on this week, or what’s coming up this term or whatever. And I look at each of those events and I think, alright, how can I or how can we in music value add to that? What can we do to make that event better? Or to have music shining as part of that event as well? So yeah.

The Importance of Music Education Advocacy
The Importance of Music Education Advocacy

Debbie
Great advice Deb. Great advice, and having seen your parent info sheets, they really are fabulous. They really are.

Deb Brydon
I’m loving them and I’m loving past Deb for just getting started and just look I started with, you know, two grades for once a semester and then I built it up, because you can’t do all that work in one year. It just can’t happen.

Debbie
No, no. Again, back to your advice. Just do it. Get it and get started.

Deb Brydon
You just need to do something.

Debbie
Yeah, this has been a fabulous chat with you. I knew it would be because I know everything you’ve got. It’s just a delight I’d like to be able to work with you as much as I do and hopefully, a lot of people are benefiting from our work together as well, because we’ve got some webinars online that people can still get in and, and get a little glimpse into how we work together.

We actually that could be worth mentioning the Writing a Unit Plan webinar, because I think we were being a little bit brave doing that webinar don’t you think.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, we were a bit anxious about that. Yeah. Because it was an insight into our intentional collaboration.

Debbie
Yes, it actually, we decided we would show us working together on a unit plan on a zoom with live people. And that was risky when you think about, it’s a bit risky. But I thought it was important that people see how we contributed and physically worked together. The technicalities of it. Yeah, so that’s still up there, if people are interested, they can download it.

Look, I’ll put the link in the show notes. Yeah, I’ll just put it here and if I forget, when I’ve written down here link webinar, and I’ll say Deb what was that and you’ll remind me, yeah, thanks. There’s so much to talk about, but never fear podcast listeners, Deb and I will be doing more podcasts together, I’m sure, because I will make her. So before we say farewell on this episode, you get a chance to get on your soapbox.

Deb Brydon
I feel like I’ve been on it already.

Debbie
A big long soapbox. I love it. So the most important thing that you want to say to the rest of the world?

Get on Your Soapbox

Deb Brydon
Well, I think music education is not about teaching music to children. It’s about teaching children through music, it’s so important to view the whole child. Look, that’s really hard when we teach so many, I’ve got 874 students at the moment, that is a lot in a week. But we need to remember that the children’s needs are more important than the curriculum, and I’m a curriculum nerd. I am. Yeah.

And I love, you know, making sure we get through everything, all that sort of thing. But I just can’t say that enough how much more important it is that the children are developing a love for music and relationships with each other and meeting those other needs that they have. And that’s more evident in some schools than in others, but all children have needs and that can be met through music education.

And I think for music educators, the other thing is network and learn. Seriously join Kodály Australia or join something, join Crescendo, join Orff, join something, find your people have a purpose in what you’re doing. Don’t just do activities randomly, build a sequence, be intentional, do your Kodály levels, seriously you will never regret it ever. Find your tribe, you cannot do this alone. The end.

Debbie
I love that Deb. That is a great way to finish. Thank you so much for this chat.

Deb Brydon
Thank you for having me. Thanks for listening, everyone.

Debbie
If you found this podcast useful I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. We’ll meet again, I hope we will. Bye!

Sign Off

This podcast is brought to you by Crescendo Music Education, connecting, supporting, and inspiring music educators. You’ll find links to Crescendo’s social media platforms in the show notes. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member. You can access hundreds of files, worksheets, printables workbooks, repeat workshops, and webinars for a low annual fee and receive great discounts on events. So come and connect with me, Debbie O’Shea. See you in the socials.

Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life. Why does piglet smell? Because he always plays with poo.


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