Rebecca Lawrence works as a music teacher in both Janvrin and Samares School. She is also a children’s song writer…Q&A by Juanita Shield-Laignel
As a local music teacher, how have you found working through lockdown? What has lockdown meant for you as a music teacher?
When lockdown happened, it was as though someone had pulled the plug and everything simply stopped. We were only days and weeks away from performing school shows and final music concerts. It was as though the birthday cake was ready, candles lit but we couldn’t blow them out! In the first week I felt numb, unable to process the situation.
Eventually, teachers settled into a new routine of working from home and or at school. Creating all the resources needed to continue learning, with physical bundles of work, online lessons and videos, answering emails, contacting students and ensuring the safe running of school for those children attending. Every member of staff in whatever position have all been working hard to try and continue ‘school’ at home and at school. We all miss the normality of school and the children so much.
Teachers always need to be flexible and never has this been tested so much. In fact, the island is full of home workers who have multi-tasked their official work commitments, whilst finding the missing glue, resolving the war over the last packet of crisps, looking after family members and worrying about every symptom possible! Those hours of freedom outside were an escape from it all and we have been blessed with the most incredible weather to exercise our minds and bodies.
How do you anticipate returning to school will work in the months to come?
I wish I had a crystal ball! I am keeping a close eye on the recommendations being considered across the world in relation to singing and playing instruments and how lessons can be done safely. I cannot imagine not singing with the children and will do everything I can to do it in a safe environment, even if this means outside at a distance. Gone for now are the wonderful choir rehearsals of 55 children all squeezed so joyfully into my music room. Instead I shall have a bubble of children at a time. There is lots we can still do we just have to be creative and patient. What effect do you think this is having on children’s mental health and can music help?
Music can change your mood. Music making is sometimes quite physically active, socially interactive and therefore spiritually rewarding. There is nothing better than feeling the invisible threads that bind you when creating music. However, in times like these, mental health is a priority and music gives every individual a way to express, unlock and explore their feelings. If a child throws themselves into an activity, being free to express themselves, the endorphins that are created are very powerful. At what stage in your life did you realise your passion for music and in particular, teaching?
Mrs Le Cornu my primary music teacher had a passion for music that we all loved and absorbed. By coincidence I work in the room she taught me over 40 years ago! The wonderful Amy Luce encouraged me to create my own school choir at St Martins Primary when I was a year 1 teacher in the late 90s. I wrote my first children’s song for school aged 24 but it wasn’t until I was asked to write a Christmas show for a school in the UK where I was working, that life changed. From then on commissions came in regularly from publishers, and music services. I had my beautiful children and stopped working as a primary school teacher and became a part-time choral Animateur and songwriter instead, travelling across the UK doing school workshops, training days and leading choral events.
I returned to Jersey and feel incredibly lucky to work in two schools that both value music and the arts and see it as a key part of the enrichment of school life. Their support for the arts is crucial to give children a full and rounded education and the staff I work with are so incredibly dedicated and passionate about what they do.
What have you been doing personally / creatively over lockdown?
I’ve enjoyed discovering parts of Jersey I’d forgotten, painting, cooking and enjoying all the online quizzes and Zoom parties. Lockdown forced my IT skills to increase due to necessity and a desire to be creative. At the beginning we all needed cheering up and so I persuaded my choir friends to take part in a live Zoom online Panto. They were so wonderful and even dressed up as their part. There were no rehearsals, just live and full of laughter. I also did a silly challenge night that including activities such how many frozen peas can you balance on the side of a knife?
A few weeks later, I created an online video ‘Stronger Together’. I saw all these gorgeous photographs online of people in Jersey doing amazing things and I put a call out for people to send them to me. I felt they needed to be put in an album of sorts as a keepsake. It includes pictures and videos such as key workers in the hospital, rainbows, cakes and even mask makers! It was just a snap shot in time.
I’m also very lucky that my song ‘Power in me’ is being used for a massed global sing organised by the USA and UK Young Voices organisation. The song was sung on June 2nd 2.30 pm local time across the world, to say thank you to teachers and home schoolers everywhere who have kept our learning going over these past weeks. It is lovely to think there were some singers from Jersey along with children from over 17 other countries across the world.
I wrote the song over 10 years ago but it has been sung numerous times in Jersey with the charity ‘Music in Action – Jersey Sings’ and last year was even sung in Jerriais. MIA are also doing a virtual choir for Liberation 75.
In fact, the island is full of people creating opportunities to sing, dance, play, paint, exercise, perform, grow, discover, bake etc. I’m sorry that even in lockdown I don’t seem to have the time to do it all!
What does the future hold for Rebecca Lawrence?
There are always ideas bubbling and plates spinning. New ideas for teaching and songs are always on the go. You will now know what I’m doing If you ever see me humming in my head and looking like I am in another world!
I loved life before Covid 19 and I’m loving life during it. Yes, there are parts of life we want to change and times where it all gets too much but I’m just going to hang on to the best bits, let the crystal clear waves crash and enjoy the surf!
Meanwhile I need to get fitter, work off the ‘Coronastone’ and enjoy being with my gorgeous children and my family. But first I’ll just see what’s in the fridge….