Broadening young minds through music
Jenny Xiao left Changchun, Jilin province, in 2002, looking to stir up some change in her life. Inspired by her parents to pursue a teaching career, she eventually found a way to combine her love of music and education: by teaching music to 18-month-old to 3-year-old children at Eton International School. In between periodic interruptions by students requesting hugs, Jenny took time to tell tbjkids about the thrill of her fast-paced Beijing life, why she loves Montessori, and the advantages of teaching the school’s youngest children.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
When I was young I was really proud of my parents, who are both retired teachers. I would see kids following them, and I thought I would really like this career.
What brought you to Beijing?
I taught music in primary school for about seven years at home, and then I thought I needed to change little bits about my life. I went to Malaysia to learn the Montessori program and improve my English. I thought Beijing would have more opportunities for me, so I moved here about four years ago. The city is changing so much – it’s amazing. I really love to see the changes from day to day.
What is your secret for teaching children that are so young?
Young children have a hard time being separated from their parents. When they totally trust you and they want to be part of the class, everything is fine, but we need some time to build a relationship with children, which takes two weeks or a month. Also, you really have to be patient with the young kids. Sometimes they can’t calm down in the classroom and do crazy things, but it’s important to be very patient with them.
Can you describe the music program in the Montessori curriculum?
We teach them songs and dances from different cultures and countries, and each month has a different topic – this month we have “spring songs.” I also introduce them to instruments like the maraca, glockenspiel, tambourine and drums. They also have an opportunity to stand on the stage alone and sing with a microphone while the rest of the children learn how to be a good audience and listen. The students are excited when we have music class – they really like it.
Have you seen changes in your students?
I’ve seen a lot! One young child couldn’t speak and only expressed her emotions through screaming, or pointing at things and crying. But she has now started to learn the initial sounds, repeating the songs we sing and performing actions.
How do you relax?
I go swimming, get a facial, or listen to music. I really like classical and opera. I also play piano and the pipa (琵琶). I’m learning how to play guitar – it’s good for small group lessons. It’s not hard, though. I know music, so it’s easy for me.