Times Have Changed

In May, it will be 15 years since I graduated from high school.

I know my memory is getting foggier with age, but I can recall taking only ONE required standardized test in high school:  the 11th grade writing test.  I can’t recall the prompt, but I do remember being so ill (warning:  TMI alert) that I left the exam in the middle of it to throw up in the bathroom, came back to complete my essay, then left promptly as soon as I finished.  I still passed.  Given the rigid testing procedures of today, I’m pretty sure this would not have been allowed.  My only option would have been to throw up in a trash can in the corner while a monitor watched to ensure I wasn’t retrieving any contraband—like a hidden essay completed ahead of time…or a magic pencil—from the trash receptacle.

I also took the PSAT and the ACT PLAN tests, which were optional.  I’m pretty sure there was no testing task force that would have penalized my teachers or withheld funding from my school if I had opted not to participate in those exams.  I took the ACT 3 times on my own time.  I earned 9 hours of college credit by scoring 5’s on the AP Government and AP English Literature exams.  Again…optional.

That was only 15 years ago.  My…how times have changed.

Every year in the spring, I receive several e-mails from teachers and counselors.  Many of them include attachments of color-coded spreadsheets to help us navigate the testing maze of April and May.   

 

There are groups of students removed from my classes several days a week to complete exams.  Since I teach mixed-grade courses, I may go the entire week without seeing all of my students from one class together.  It makes for an incredibly frustrating final quarter for us arts teachers, who are trying to put together performances without rehearsing our students together.

But my frustration is small compared to my students’.  As the days progress through testing season, I see students come into my room after a test, relieved that it’s over, exhausted from the stress, or worst of all, depressed that they failed.  Most of the time, they have checked out.  They are finished, if not for the year at least for the day.  Meaningful learning, real learning, cannot take place because all of their energy and joy has been drained by testing.

One of my favorite teachers in high school was in charge of the school-wide Christmas philanthropy.  This was a large-scale effort by most of the organizations in the school collecting food, gifts, and money for less-advantaged families in our community.  For two weeks in December, we spent our class-period in the library sorting through hundreds of food items and dividing them into baskets for the several dozen families we assisted each year.  Some people might call this a waste of educational time, but I think it was one of the greatest lessons we learned in our civics class.  We were taught what “community” means, and simultaneously reminded how small our own problems were in comparison to others.  We were given to the opportunity to be in service to somebody besides ourselves.  There were some great conversations with peers and our teacher about generosity.  It was truly a teachable moment.

I doubt this kind of learning would be possible today.  We simply couldn’t spare those weeks of test prep.

The six or seven of you who read my blog are probably teachers.  So I know I’m preaching to the choir.  But seriously…when will enough be enough?  When will this “more is more” mentality concerning testing be laid to rest?  When will our teachers finally be free to encourage our students to create, to think critically, to problem-solve, to collaborate, and to do these things through fun and engaging activities once again?  When will school be about learning and not memorizing answers so students can fill in the right bubbles on a scantron?

During difficult times, my mother likes to tell me, “this, too, shall pass.”

I’m not so sure it will without a little shove from us.

It’s a Wonderful Life?

When I was a kid, they used to show the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, non-stop in the few days leading up to Christmas. Before the Scrooges at NBC bought the rights to it and decided to show it only once a year, you used to be able to find it playing on various channels continuously. My family made a game out of switching among several stations to watch our favorite parts of the movie over and over again. Never mind that we had it taped on VHS and Betamax (1000 bonus points to anybody who knows what that is). 

For the two or three of you that have never seen it, here’s a (not so) brief synopsis:

George Bailey (the amazing Jimmy Stewart) is a regular joe whose one desire is to leave his small town home and “build things”. But due to circumstances beyond his control (his father’s death, his brother’s marriage, WWII) he puts off his dream to run the family business, the “Building and Loan”. This small bank is the last hold-out from the infamous Mr. Potter, a crotchety old fart whose only desire in life is to own everything and everybody in town.  Over the years, George helps a lot of people in his town of Bedford Falls, but he can’t shake the feeling he was meant to do other things. Eventually, George becomes so distraught with his lot in life, that he “wishes he had never been born”.  That’s where Clarance Odbody (Angel, Second Class) comes in. He shows George that life for many people in Bedford Falls would have been quite different (in a bad way) if George had never been born. It ends with George realizing that he was, indeed, meant to “build things”, but the “things” were relationships, not buildings. And then everybody brings him money, and Harry comes home from the war, and Clarance gets his wings, and they all join in a rousing chorus of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”

(And Potter gets away with the $8000 that went missing, which always bothered me…)

  

Sometimes, I feel like George Bailey.

I see the many obstacles we face in education (not the kids–the kids are never the problem), and I wonder if I can do this for another 25, 30, 35 years. I wonder if my effort is better placed elsewhere. I wonder if I’m really all that good at my job. I wonder if what I teach is all that important. I wonder if my colleagues and I will ever garner the respect we so desperately crave from the public for our work. 

I wonder if I should learn to hold my tongue and not be so vocal about the things that bother me, that anger me, that seem like injustices. I wonder if I shouldn’t be so personally invested in my work and my students so I won’t be so broken up when we fail. I wonder if my presence is really that imperative to the growth of my students. 

I wonder if I’m really making a difference. 

Then, I get a message like this out of the blue:

  

And I remember why I do what I do. I am reminded that living out your calling doesn’t mean it will be easy. It doesn’t mean it won’t come with its fair share of difficulties and even doubt. 

But it does and will continue to bring great satisfaction when we see our students go on to “build things” of their own. 

Contest: My Sort-of-but-not-really High Stakes Test

Tomorrow, I take my kids to contest.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with choral music contests, let me give you a crash course. Here’s what our day will (if all goes well) entail tomorrow.

Upon arriving at the contest site, I will check in with the contest coordinators and drop of our music for the judges of the stage performance portion of contest. Each choir must perform less than ten minutes of music that includes at least two selections, one of which must be unaccompanied (a capella). Additionally, at least one of the two or more selections must come from the “Prescribed Music List”. The “PML” is actually five lists, one for each classification in music (2A-6A), that contain a few hundred pieces of music in various voicings (men’s, women’s, mixed). Three judges listen to the performances and assign each school a rating:

We won’t even have time to breath a sigh of relief before they escort us straight to the sight-reading room. They will hand each student a spiral-bound book upon entering, and warn them sternly not to open it before instructed to do so. Once the students and I are all in the room with books in hand, they will give us a page number, and start the timer. We will have three minutes to rehearse a 20-24 measure song the students have never seen before. For us, it will be in three parts (Soprano, Alto, Baritone). Once the timer goes off, we perform for three more judges, using neutral syllables for the pitches (we use solfeg—Do, Re, Mi, Fa…all the ones Julie Andrews sang about in The Sound of Music). After the first performance for judges, we will get an additional two minutes of rehearsal to continue practicing. At the end of this second rehearsal period, we will sing again for the judges, except this time we have to sing the words. Oh yeah—this is unaccompanied (a capella), we cannot use the piano or any other instruments for instruction, and the teacher may not at any time sing with the students. I can say whatever I want. But I can’t sing a note.

[This whole process is really awesome because if my students ever find themselves in a situation where somebody puts a gun to their head and says, “sight-read this music in less than six minutes, or you’re dead”, then they’re golden.]

Each set of judges will assign us a rating in performance and sight-reading. The ratings are:

  • I : “Superior”
  • II : “Excellent”
  • III: “Average”
  • IV: “Fair”
  • V: “Poor”

We advanced two choirs to state contest from district contest, a “mixed” chorus and a “treble” (or “women’s”) chorus. If both choirs receive “Superior” ratings both on stage and in sight-reading, we will be given an additional award: “Sweepstakes”.

Now, I don’t want you to think this is turning into a rant against music contests or the way they are conducted. I think contest is important for my students and for me. I like that in addition to receiving a rating, we are given feedback from the judges. They have to tell us why we were assigned this rating. They give us suggestions for improving our performance, and often point out what is going well. I also have some control as the director because I get to choose the music. Yes, there are guidelines, but with hundreds of music selections to choose from, it isn’t too difficult to find something that is accessible to the particular group I am directing and fits the guidelines.

But I cannot imagine these few hours on this one day serving as the sole indicator of my students’ success and growth.

 

Most of them have been with me for 161 days of instruction. We have given concerts. We have auditioned (and many were selected) for honor choirs and all-state choruses. We have given community performances. We have learned, and laughed, and learned some more. They have truly transformed their skill through hundreds of hours of rehearsal. More importantly, we’ve gained confidence, we’ve learned work ethic, we’ve formed bonds, and so many other things that cannot be measured.

These are three years worth of contest plaques from my last school, grouped by the year they were awarded.

File Apr 23, 10 24 17 PM

You’ll notice year three was kind of a banner year. We took six choirs to contest. All of them received “Superior” ratings on stage, and all but one received “Superior” ratings in sight-reading. We were awarded two “Sweepstakes”. You might also notice the other end of the wall where just two plaques are hanging.

What those two lonely plaques don’t tell you is that it was the inaugural year of this school. The entire choir program, and even the school, was primarily comprised of freshmen and sophomores. I had only nine seniors in the entire program (I had 28 four years later). My classes were made up of students from all seven of the other secondary schools in the district, as well as kids from private schools, home-schooling, and out-of-state. Those students learned and sang the alma mater for the first time. They established the traditions and the standard of excellence for their school. What those two lonely plaques don’t tell you is that the kids who earned them were the pioneers that laid the groundwork for all the successes that followed.

And all of those plaques are just a snapshot of what my students accomplish. They seem important at the time that we earn them. But when my former students reminisce through social media or stop by to say hello in person, they rarely (if ever) mention contest ratings.

Ms. D., do you remember that French piece we worked so hard to learn?

Do you remember when we performed ‘Pirates of Penzance’ on our opera concert?

Remember that super-hard 8-part spiritual? That was my favorite piece!

Remember that 7-minute tap number from ‘White Christmas’?

Do you remember making the Ferris Bueller video for the 80’s concert?

Man, I miss singing. I miss choir!

 

Today, I gave the “you’re more than just a score” talk to my students. I know teachers all over the state are giving their kids, some as young as eight years old, this same pep talk. I know this because I have seen countless posts on twitter and facebook of the letters, cards, gifts, and speeches that teachers are bestowing upon their students. And it makes me sad that education has come to a place where teachers must add to their already long list of obligations the task of minimizing the damage from high-stakes testing before it even occurs. I am worried that by opening the testing window, we have closed the door on the real purpose of school: to help kids discover their best selves.

Let’s Talk About Text (Baby)

So…I thought about taking this tack with the bluecerealeducation content challenge last week. Then Rick Cobb sort of beat me to it with his introduction-to-poetry-through-lyrics lesson.  I know I can’t top Tom Petty, but hopefully it won’t totally suck.

We talk about text a lot in my class. Sometimes our rehearsals turn into a poetry or text interpretation session. It’s very important that students make a connection to the text and understand its meaning, otherwise a truly musical performance isn’t possible. Sometimes this process requires a bit of discussion and reflection. Sometimes they get it right away. Sometimes I have to nudge them in the right direction before they truly comprehend the meaning. For instance, last week we discussed the translation for a little Mozart nocturne they are performing that is in Italian. Roughly, it translates to:

“Two beautiful eyes that enslave my heart. If I cannot win the mercy of those lights, I will die of love.”

I know. Pretty potent stuff, right? But (and I’m sorry to say it), this kind of expression is almost completely foreign to my students. I spent some time talking about the era in which Mozart lived (mid-late 1700’s). Not only would it have been inappropriate, but downright scandalous for men and women to express passion in public. “Decent” men and women weren’t even permitted to touch each other unless they were dancing, or escorting/being escorted somewhere. Words and music were the only acceptable ways of communicating strong emotion. In other words, receiving the above sentiment from an admirer certainly would have been swoon-worthy in Mozart’s Day.

It’s OSSAA State Contest week for 2A/3A/4A high schools in Oklahoma. My high school girls are preparing an arrangement of an Emily Dickinson poem, Heart! We Will Forget Him.

Heart, we will forget him!

You and I, tonight!

You may forget the warmth he gave,

I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,

That I, my thoughts may dim;

Haste! Lest while you’re lagging,

I may remember him.

  

I have sung and/or directed a few different arrangements of this text. It’s always a winner with the girls. We talk about the meaning of words like “haste” and “lagging”. We talk about the “bargaining” between “speaker” and “heart” (you forget this, I’ll forget that…come on, heart! Do your part! I can’t be pulling all the weight, here!). I usually share with them my sad story about my horrible break-up with my college boyfriend. We laugh, we cry, it’s a good time, and usually results in a great performance by musicians, not just singers.

All of this is to say that text plays a big part in the music I choose for my students. I try to choose text that is appropriate according to age, and to which the students can relate. However, we choral directors have to take it one step further.

We have to consider the way the composer treats the text.

Most of you have probably read or heard a recitation of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. Here’s the text, just to jog your memory:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;

Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree

And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Great fun, right? The kids usually love this one. Especially all the silly words.

“Slithy toves? Mome raths?”

“What the hell is a borogove?”

“Ms. D., what’s a vorpal blade?”

Even with all the nonsense words, they understand the story. They even get that it’s meant to be satirical and a little bit funny.

Now, here’s where the composer comes into the picture…er…score.

Watch the University of Utah A Capella Singers perform this Sam Pottle arrangement of Jabberwocky. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsHGyk9A5_o

Now check out this one by Rene Clausen. You don’t need to hear the whole thing, just a minute or so to get the gist of the style.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU3NHYFIRBc

Don’t worry if you gave up on it after a minute. I think it’s boring, too. Since I only have about seven readers right now, I’m pretty sure this won’t get back to Mr. Clausen. He’s a great composer, I just don’t care for this particular work because I don’t think it stays true to the spirit of the text. It takes itself way too seriously.

In the Pottle arrangement, on the other hand, there is no shortage of silliness and wimsy. This choir did not take too many liberties; the parts for children’s toy instruments are actually written into the score. You’ll also notice the composer has a little fun with the nonsense words. For instance, he uses chromatic scales both ascending and descending on the words “burbled as he came”. The text, “he went galumphing back”, repeats several times, starting out slowly and speeding up with each repetition—as if somebody were bringing a horse from trot to gallup. We call this text painting—when the music actually imitates what the words are suggesting. I mean…even the composer’s name—Sam Pottle—sounds like exactly the guy Carroll would have picked to score his poem.

I’m not saying you’re wrong if you prefer the Clausen arrangement (I’m not saying it…). One of the great things about music—and poetry, I think—is that we are free to interpret and experience it in different ways. Both of these arrangements of Jabberwocky have been all-state chorus pieces in Oklahoma sometime in the last ten years. Just goes to show there’s more than one way to skin a cat…or slay a Jabberwock.

Let’s Stop Pretending…and Standardizing

I wasn’t tagged in the “let’s stop pretending…” challenge thrown down earlier this week. There have been some amazing blog posts born from this challenge, all with suggestions for how we can #makeschooldifferent. I feel I have very little to add that hasn’t already been said.  But as a self-proclaimed loudmouth, I rarely pass up an opportunity to add something to the conversation. 

I only have one item on my list, so we’ll just call it an “addendum”, if you will, because I can’t possibly match the amazing-ness of the full-blown lists offered already by my talented colleagues. 

Can we please stop pretending that “standardized” belongs anywhere in education?  

School should be a place where we identify and celebrate each kid’s unique talents. It should not be a place where we try (and fail) to make every kid fit the mold.  Our society has many needs. To fulfill those needs, we need lots of people with a wide array of skills.  Can we expect to produce confident individuals who make up a diverse workforce if we offer one-size-fits-all education? 

Everybody is good at something. Instead of allowing students to feel like failures because they aren’t good at school, let’s make school for each child what he/she is good at. 

The following words are from the second verse of Jackson Browne’s, “The Pretender.”

“I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams

Of some greater awakening?”

I feel like this generation of students, deserves an answer to that question.  Instead of coming to a place where we recognize and nurture their special gifts, they are met with standardized curriculum, standardized assessments, and standardized expectations. And when they don’t fit the standard, they leave our halls feeling dejected and “unsatisfactory”. 

School is and should be a place where hopes and dreams begin. Unfortunately, for too many students it’s where hopes and dreams begin and end. 

The only thing about school that should be standardized is opportunity. 

http://youtu.be/qQlwwMQHC18

#Oklaed Blogger Challenge: Content

A few days week ago, my friend (if I may be so presumptuous) over at Blue Cereal threw down the gauntlet for #oklaed bloggers to talk some content. I’ll admit, I’ve struggled with bringing this post to fruition. But, he is my favorite-person-I’ve-never-met, so I’d hate to disappoint.

I teach music. That’s a PK-12 certification*. When I first started teaching, it was K-12. Upon finishing my master’s degree in music education, I was rewarded by the state of Oklahoma by being asked to fork over another $25 to have a new certificate issued that listed my new master status. Lucky me. Upon its arrival, I was surprised to see that in addition to my new level of education, I had also been certified to teach another grade level. I must have done that in my sleep.

I digress…

All of this is to say that PK-12 Music Vocal/General is a lot of content. I found it difficult to narrow it down to one concept, or performance skill, or piece of literature, or curriculum resource…

I’ve been using this lesson on the first day of school for a few years now, and it’s always been a big hit.

We start by defining beat. Beat is the steady pulse underlying all music. I ask students to put their hand over their hearts or take their pulse at their necks. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Can you feel your heart beat?”
*nods*
“Is it constant and steady? Or random and irregular?”
*constant and steady*
“Does your heart always beat at the same speed (tempo)?”
*no*
“What are some times when your heart beats at a slower speed (tempo)?”
*sitting, resting, sleeping*
“What are some times when your heart beats at a faster speed (tempo)?”
*running, playing, lifting heavy things, being nervous/anxious*
“Just like your heart, music has a steady pulse called beat. And just like your heart beats at different speeds, different music may also have a fast or slow beat depending on the song.”

We then listen to several songs and I ask them to “find the beat” by tapping or patting it somewhere on the body. It’s very important that they feel the beat, not just hear it. I use music that they know and like. You should hear the middle-schooler’s excitement when I start with Ariana Grande or One Direction. I also throw in a few “oldies”, like Fleetwood Mac and Journey because they tend to have very strung percussion and/or bass so it makes the beat very apparent. New bands like OneRepublic and Imagine Dragons also have very strong rhythmic pulse.

Here are some of the selections from my “first day” playlist this year:

  • Gotye—Somebody That I Used to Know
  • Fleetwood Mac–Chains
  • The Killers—All These Things That I’ve Done
  • American Authors—Best Day of My Life
  • Young MC—Bust a Move
  • Journey—Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Lady Antebellum—Compass
  • Imagine Dragons—I Bet My Life
  • Michael Jackson—Smooth Criminal
  • Avril Lavigne—Keep Holdin’ On
  • Pitbull (feat. Ke$ha)—Timber
  • Coldplay—A Sky Full of Stars
  • Ellie Goulding—Anything Could Happen
  • Cupid—Cupid Shuffle (I make them dance to this one!)
  • One Republic—Good Life
  • Paul McCartney—Dance Tonight
  • Disclosure (feat. Sam Smith)—Latch
  • Rihanna—Sos
  • One Direction—Story of My Life

Obviously, we don’t have time to listen to all of these. I usually play about the first 20-30 seconds. Just enough time for them discover the pulse, and before we get to the whatever isn’t “school appropriate” in some of them.

Once we understand beat, I use it as a springboard to talk about meter.

Some teachers will use the terms “time signature” and “meter” interchangeably. I have been guilty of this in the past, and I’ve seen some texts that do this. However, this is incorrect. “Time signature” and “meter” are related, but they are NOT the same. A time signature is two numbers found in the score (at the beginning, and sometimes in the middle if it changes) that tell us the number of beats in each measure and the value of each beat.

Meter is MUCH broader. Simply put, meter is the organization of the beat. Unlike time signatures, of which there are many, there are only TWO meters, or two different ways to organize the beat: simple and compound. In simple meter, the beat is divided into two equal parts. In compound meter, the beat is divided into three equal parts.

So now, we go back to the music. I play the songs again, and first we find the beat. Then, I ask them to listen for how the beat is divided. If it’s divided equally into TWO parts, the word “apple” fits on every beat. If it’s divided equally into THREE parts, the word “strawberry” fits on every beat. Once we figure out how the beat is divided, we can identify the meter: Simple (or “apple”) Meter or Compound (or “Strawberry”) Meter.

This song from OneRepublic is a great one to start with because you hear a strong beat at the beginning. When the piano enters at :08, you hear the subdivision of the beat very clearly (ap-ple, ap-ple, ap-ple, ap-ple…). This song is in simple meter.

Simple meter is much more common than compound, especially in pop music. You have to search hard to find current songs in compound meter, but they’re out there. “Latch”, by Disclosure was pretty popular at the beginning of the year, but it’s quick. I usually start with something a little slower where the triple division is very easy to hear, like this one (that also happens to be my favorite Journey song, which makes it required listening in my class). It’s very easy for the students to hear the “straw-ber-ry, straw-ber-y, straw-ber-y, straw-ber-y” on every slow beat. The waltz-like feel (1-2-3, 1-2-3) is very apparent at this tempo. This song is in compound meter because the beat is divided into three equal parts.

So what’s the purpose of this?

I’ve been using this activity for a few years now on the first day of school. I wish I could confess to some grand pedagogical scheme. Although I use it as a springboard for rhythm reading exercises (we even count eighth notes as “apple”), the reason for it is just that the kids like it, and it gets them thinking about music in a different way. It’s also easily adaptable for multiple grade levels. I currently teach 6th-12th grade and every class was engaged and enjoyed it.

There you have it! And now, you too, can teach simple and compound meter to budding young musicians! And in less than 1200 words (1193).

*[Random Gripe: Honestly, it sort of perturbs me that this is the way music certifications work. I understand that in Oklahoma, some small districts require one music teacher to do it all—from the Kindergarten Christmas pageant to the middle school show choir to the high school marching band. However, elementary and secondary music are so different in both purpose and pedagogy, that I believe they each deserve their own certification, awarded to teachers who receive the training to meet the unique challenges of each.]

What Teachers Really Teach

I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. When my kindergarten teacher asked us, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, my answer was “a teacher”. That answer never changed over the years. Third grade—teacher. Seventh grade—teacher. Sophomore—teacher. What I wanted to teach changed several times over the years, usually coinciding with whatever grade level I happened to be in at the time. By my junior year in high school, I had settled on teaching high school English Literature, until an epiphany experience in the All-State Chorus confirmed for me that I was called to teach music.

I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. My certification reads “music vocal/general PK-12”. I’m in my eighth year as a secondary vocal music teacher.

But music is not really what I teach.

I teach critical thinking. I teach problem solving. I teach students how to take it one step at a time while keeping the big picture in mind. I show them how to practice smart, not just hard, and to see the “why” not just the “what” in every concept. I challenge them to be musicians, not just singers.

I teach multi-tasking. I show them how to read notes, rhythms, text, dynamics, and articulation while simultaneously utilizing good technique. I help them learn to juggle multiple projects at the same time, while giving each the attention and practice they need to come to fruition.

I teach work ethic. I teach kids that talent + work ethic = skill. I tell them that practice makes permanent and that taking the time to learn good habits—no matter how tedious—saves them the time of breaking bad ones in the long-run.

I teach teamwork. I teach collaboration. I show students that there are tasks in life we can’t accomplish on our own, and I show them how to ask for and accept help. I teach them the value of contributing their own unique gifts to the common good, and to appreciate how the unique gifts of other benefit them.

I teach vision. I teach the value of setting a goal, then working hard over the course of days, weeks, months, and sometimes years to achieve it. I show them—in a world where waiting for anything is a foreign concept—that some things are worth the wait. I teach delayed gratification in an instant gratification world.

I teach students to look for the science and math in art, and to look for the art in science and math. I show them that poetry and music are sometimes synonymous. I show them that music has been, is, and will continue to be an integral part of the human experience in every culture across the planet. I remind them that people 50, 100, 200, 400 years ago performed the same piece of music they are learning today, and I watch them marvel at that connection.

Music is the vessel for learning in my classroom. My colleagues are teaching the same lessons using a different medium—Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, Athletics…

I teach my kids skills that cannot be measured, but matter more than any name, date, or fact they can memorize. I teach many things. Music is just the tool I use to teach them.