Canta, Canta Ancora! – Marisa Denker

I’m a terrible singer. I’ve been told countless times that it would be better if I just didn’t even try. So when I found out that one of my main responsibilities of my internship at the Montessori preschool would be singing in English, I was a bit distressed, to say the least. What if the kids hated my singing? What if I was so bad that they put their hands over their ears? Or worse, hated me and ran away?

Needless to say, when it was my time to “shine” a.k.a. attempt my first singing session with the 1-3 year old children, I was nervous. I had decided to begin with a classic song from my childhood, in hopes that its catchy tune would work on the kids just as it had on me years ago. I began to song “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands,” making sure to smile and actually look happy, rather than let my nerves betray me. After the song was over, I was met with complete and utter silence. The children all just stared at me, in a state of some sort of shock. What kind of gibberish is she speaking?

The teachers then explained in Italian that lei é Americana, e parla inglese. The explanation did not seem to calm their disquiet. The teacher told me to sing the song a few more times, and as I repeated the words, the children slowly seemed to become a little more at ease. A few of the students even joined in and began to clap their hands at the right time. I considered that a small victory, though I still received a good amount of strange looks afterwards.

As the weeks have passed, however, my children have become more interested and engaged, and I have developed my singing session further. Working with the main teacher of my class, I now start with more of an introduction song to make the students more alert and participating – I sing “Where is ____, where is ____, there she is, there she is…” The children love the song and are beginning to respond to the English by pointing at the appropriate student. I really feel like they are becoming accustomed existence of this strange language, English.

One of the most special moments in my singing ventures was after the third week at the preschool. Three of the children ran up to me as soon as I arrived, gave me big hugs, and then begged me to canta ancora, canta ancora! With my old memory of being told to avoid singing in the back of my mind, these requests to sing from such eager, adorable children brought a huge smile to my face.