FERGUS — Taking on the role of teacher rather than student, St. Joseph’s Catholic School alumnus Alex Shellington recently revisited his alma mater to share his knowledge and passion for music.
On Jan. 13, Shellington, along with St. Joseph’s principal Todd Goodwin and his current music teacher, Jennifer Dunnett, joined his mother’s Grade 6 class, Pam Pegelo, to teach a lesson in music.
Having already completed grade 10 instrumental music, Shellington was enrolled in grade 10 guitar and grade 11 instrumentation this term with Dunnett, a high school teacher at St. James Catholic School in Guelph.
At the start of the semester, Dunnett spoke with Shellington and Pegelo about trying to switch classes to challenge the former Fergus student, which involved taking on a leadership role.
Pegelo, who teaches French and music at St. Joseph, had been trying to come up with ideas for what she could do with students online, and she recalled Dunnett saying Shellington needed a challenge. additional.
“I was like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if he could go back to his alma mater…and teach some of his younger peers?'” Pegelo said.
She then pitched Shellington the idea of leading an online session with her 6th grade music class and teaching them some things with guitar and piano that they hadn’t worked on yet.
From there, Shellington went through lessons on different chords, harmonic melodies, and introduced new vocabulary to the class.
Although he taught some classes to his peers before stepping past the 6th grade class, Shellington said teaching online was different and a bit more challenging.
“Teaching young children and teaching basic music skills was quite interesting,” he said.
“I tried to teach it in a fun way and ended up having a lot of fun and I think they got something out of it too.”
He said getting the students to understand some of the concepts and the audience was difficult.
“We did activities like listening and some of them didn’t know the difference between different sounds as well as I or my peers did,” he explained.
“It made it a little more difficult, but they ended up developing their ear a lot, it seemed, right at the end of the course.
Shellington, who began learning music at the age of seven with the piano, is versed in trombone, bagpipes, bass drum and guitar, which he has been playing for about two years.
“He explained and demonstrated with all these different terms and concepts with the piano and his electric guitar,” Pegelo explained.
“And then at the end he was also making a few requests to play some of the music that he likes to play with his electric guitar because he’s a huge music fan himself and has a wide variety of music that he likes to play. he loves, so he shared some of his talents too.
Pegelo said she even received feedback from parents about how students appreciated Shellington coming to teach.
“I was really inspired,” Goodwin added. “We want to paint a bit of a bright picture here and in the midst of the disaster and the gloom, we want to paint a bit of light.
“To see him take that extra leap at such a young age really.”
“It’s been nice to see his progression as he went from that first lesson, where he wasn’t quite sure what to do, to…how proficient he was in front of the 6th graders,” Dunnett told About Shellington. progress.
Goodwin, who also attended the lesson, said he found the students very engaged, acknowledging it was something different for them, with many having missed some of the fun aspects of school they didn’t. could not commit due to the pandemic
“A lot of our kids love the arts, and that’s something that, even though it’s in the school curriculum, doesn’t spend as much time on it,” he explained.
“So it gives them the opportunity to have fun with a hands-on learning activity.
“Especially when they’re sitting at home, and especially during COVID, just a break from routine is really engaging for them.”
Dunnett described the exercise as “reverse learning”.
“It’s a question of whether he comes out of that ‘I’m now a student, but I’m still a student and I’m trying to think…this is the concept I want them to understand and grasp or the skill, how do I get them to be in that skill and really break it down,” she explained.
She noted that she had already led exercises like this several times with different students who needed something else.
“It’s about individualizing their education to enable them to excel, while challenging them to learn new skills,” Dunnett said.
“Once in a while you meet a certain student that he will work with and allow him to really show what he knows – but to develop what he knows in a new way,” she added.
“It adds a new flavor to work on their own learning.”
“It’s awesome,” Shellington said of his experience as a teacher.
“I feel like I’m doing something with [music] other than just practicing in my room all the time – I feel like I’m contributing in some way.