When teacher Jinhee Park noticed some of her students feeling down about cancelled classes and not seeing their friends at school, she sought to cheer them up with one song they’d grown to love before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
After all, music is one of her favourite things.
A professional orchestra musician, Park’s main gig these days is teaching Grade 4/5 students at Erma Stephenson Elementary in Fraser Heights, an area of Surrey where she also lives.
With instruction forced online, school just isn’t the same.
“Although I live close to most of my students, I cannot see them and it has been hard for me and for students,” Park told the Now-Leader. “I exchange emails and phone calls with students and their parents. Sometimes I walk to my students’ houses and leave small gift bags or care packages for them at the doors, and we communicate virtually telling how much we miss each other.”
Last week, in an attempt to make even more of a connection, Park recorded a solo video of herself singing and performing “My Favourite Things,” the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein classic from The Sound of Music movie.
Because her students had been learning the recorder at school, and some take lessons on piano, ukulele and violin, Park is shown playing those instruments in a multi-angle video posted to Youtube, for all to see and hear.
“I wanted them to sing and play along with me at home and remember their favourite things during this difficult time,” Park said.
Prior spring break, as B.C. witnessed an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, some parents told Park that they were afraid to send their kids to school. With student absences on the rise, along with anxiety and uncertainty, Park introduced a favourite song of hers to the class.
“We weren’t sure if we will meet again after the spring break or not,” she recalled. “Just a few days before the spring break, I thought we need some positive thoughts and cheer to get through this situation. From my experience, music always has been a great medicine.”
Not only does “My Favourite Things” feature positive lyrics, Park said, it’s a “simple yet beautiful melody so the students can take a little break from all the stress and anxiety from the COVID-19 and think about positive things.
“Sure enough, my students loved it. I just thought this song was perfect, especially with the lyrics where it says, ‘When I am feeling sad, I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.’”
This month, using the FreshGrade app, the teacher posted a “Sing Along with Ms. Park” assignment, to the delight of students and parents, who said their kids are singing, playing instruments and feeling happier.
The positive response has touched Park.
“It brought tears to my eyes when I received their sweet responses,” she said. “I just wanted to share this with the community by sending the positive message, just like the lyrics of this song.
“I also want my students to remember this time when they look back later and they can feel proud of being able to get through this together,” Park added. “Once we meet again when the school reopens, we will sing this song together and will remember the time when we were apart but thinking of each other more through this song.”