As we’re sure the teachers and parents reading will understand, inspiring children to co-operate doesn’t always go quite to plan!

At a recent drumming workshop for year 2 students, I very soon realised that one pupil was a heckler. I don’t have a set method for dealing with these situations, but I am determined to work positively with pupils whose agendas may be different to mine! This time I really managed to turn it around.

This pupil was typically rebellious and defiant. While the class were trying to keep in time to a rhythm, he was playing something completely different. When everybody stopped together, he would tumble some stray beats which would spoil the clean finish. Of course, this could be an innocent mistake – but after trying the exercise a few times, the pupil’s grin made it quite clear it was deliberate.

Getting through to him...

I wasn’t cross. I told him, “The drumming isn’t about you, it’s about all of us.” Instead of scolding him, I explained that his desire to stand out was making things difficult for others, and that his contribution was essential to make the rhythm work. He then played really well and in time with all of us!

Then it all got tricky again. I introduced some arm choreography to the drumming rhythm, which he did in a very ‘crazy manic’ way. Again, I explained to him that we needed him ‘back with us’ instead of drifting into his own world. He seemed to think this an intervention too far and I was worried! I actually liked his crazy wild spirit – I just wanted to find a way to channel that into playing with the group, not against it.

Different means of expression!

For a while I’d lost him. He disengaged, fed up with being picked on. I hoped the dancing might bring him back, so I asked the whole class to stand up and dance freestyle while I played. He sulked for a few minutes and then started doing punches and karate kicks. I let him be, trying to avoid any more interventions.

Instead, I spoke to the whole class and asked if anybody wanted “to express themselves through their dance in the middle of the drum circle.” The pupil spoke up, saying, “like being angry?”

This was fantastic! He was back. I said that as long as he didn’t hurt anybody, he could be as angry as he wanted… so he did a very enthusiastic ‘angry dance’ in the circle. This inspired other children to have a go at expressing themselves. I think once he realised that it was fine for him to be angry, he could express other feelings too.

So what can we learn from this?

Firstly – everybody brings different stories and feelings with them to their drumming workshops. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t fit in. This kid was like a storm, but it was great we found a way together for him to channel his feelings into a productive part of the session. It helped him realise that he could be other things apart from being angry and rebellious, and helped him to feel less like the ‘outsider.’

It was also a learning experience from our perspective. It’s easy to get frustrated with a rebellious member of a session like this, but rather than forcing him to co-operative (which definitely would have failed) it was far more effective to keep calm and find a way to appeal to him.

 Read more about our educational workshops.