Working With What We’ve Got

Dance Notes creativity blog for teachers 'Working With What We've Got'

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Often, when our time would be better spent working with what we’ve got, we get distracted. We think that having something new will somehow make us better. But will it?

Sensible Investment

On a recent trip to Germany, I found myself perusing a local music shop, together with a family friend. He had recently taken up the bass guitar and we spent a happy half hour trying out the store’s various models. One, in particular, caught his attention. So, on returning home, I set about researching this instrument.

Asking players I know, they agreed the bass in question would be a sensible investment for a developing bassist. The brand has a good reputation and the cheaper models benefit from following a similar manufacturing process to those that carry a much higher price tag.

Why Are You Looking?

One bassist sent me a link to an online review, so I could share this with my friend. On watching the clip, I was surprised to see that it was not a particularly favourable review. However, many people had posted beneath it, saying they had the model and thought it excellent. So, I decided to investigate further and one video caught my attention.

This piece had a typical click-inducing title: something like ‘7 basses you should avoid’. But the content was actually quite illuminating. The host of this video posed the question: why are you looking for a new instrument? And asked the viewer whether their time would be better spent in working with what they already have.

Mother of Invention

Interestingly, my friend had said at the outset he didn’t think it wise to invest much money whilst finding out whether or not the bass was the right instrument for him. He already has an affordable bass and I know from jamming with him that he has made a good start using that. Until he started looking at alternatives, he was quite happy with his situation. His focus was on learning and the enjoyment that come from it.

I think this is quite relevant to the teaching environment today. In schools, everyone is having to make compromises and sacrifices. And it could be easy to say ‘if only we had the budget, we could get this’ or ‘had we the resources, we could do that’. Yet – as the saying goes – necessity is the mother of invention.

We Each Have a Voice

To make music, we don’t necessarily need any instruments. I have personally run workshops in which children have used waste paper bins and their contents to create sounds. We can hit, scrunch, rattle, shake, stomp and all manner of other things in order to make music. Plus, of course, we each have a voice.

Similarly, we can all move – in one way or another. And we don’t necessarily need a bespoke space in which to do that. Visual art can be derived from collage, using old magazines and brochures. We can even build pin-hole cameras to make our own photographs.

Present Enjoyment

None of which is to say schools should not be better resourced. Of course they should. But we can only work with what we have – and this, in itself, can be a useful learning experience for our pupils. Over the course of their own development, each will be faced with a range of choices. And they will be subject to a lot of pressure to acquire ‘stuff’.

If we can all learn to make the most of what we have, we may not be so inclined to waste time and effort searching for something ‘better’.   Working with what we’ve got means getting on and being creative. Down the line, we may – indeed – be due an upgrade. But let’s not let that distract us from our present enjoyment of doing.

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