Feet shuffling to the beat, fingers snapping, tunes cranking – our students reluctantly stuff their iPods in their pockets as they enter our classrooms. Music is a passion for them: pop, rock, hip hop, and rap. They love the rhythms. They like the most controversial lyrics because they give voice to how they’re feeling about school, bullying, young love, and the establishment. This is powerful stuff, and as teachers we should be tapping into it. Our classrooms need to be a place where this passion, this music, is accepted, discussed, and celebrated.
I’ve always been a little nervous about teaching music because I’m not completely comfortable with that area of the curriculum. And because I do see the importance of music for my students, I’ve always worried that I would not be able to offer them what they deserved: a really rich musical experience.
It’s a good idea to seek support from other staff members when you’d like to grow in a subject area that is new or unfamiliar. There are many varied skills among staff in any given school. It’s also exactly what I model in my classroom: I have often used drama as a way to bring students together by using team-building techniques, so that they can celebrate one another’s strengths and support each other’s weak spots. I have discovered the most powerful statement about lifelong learning is made by the teacher who, as experimenter, creates a powerful atmosphere in the classroom that says, “It’s great to try something new.”
I wanted to try something new: something big and bold, something musical. I wanted to develop a greater comfort level for myself in this subject and I wanted to offer my students something meaningful.
I went to see our resident music teacher, Julie Broughton. She comes to me for drama support and I visit her for music guidance. During our second year at Lakeside we produced a dramatic and musical version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. And, as a result of Julie’s well-timed phone call, our students performed at the Stephen Leacock Theatre in Keswick instead of the school gym, delighting families and the community.
This experience gave me the courage to try working with musical work that Julie suggested– Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Keeping in mind how important music is and what I might use to hook grade 5 and 6 students on Mozart, I decided the popularity of the High School Musical series would create the connecting bridge .
The class met in a circle. I told them we would be trying something new in music. We spoke a little about why music was important to us. I led them into talking about High School Musical 1and 2. What made these movies and the music such a success? What makes