Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back-to-School Playlist: Lessons Learned from our Favorite Songs

This post was co-written with Steven Weber and cross-posted on ASCD EDge.

The popularity of music festivals, online sites like Spotify, Pandora and iHeart Radio, and satellite radio are evidence of just how much music is part of our culture. How does music impact our professional lives and influence our behaviors as educators?  As we begin a new school year, reflect on the following songs and how they relate to the important work of teaching and learning. We hope your school improvement plan, student growth, professional learning team, and this blog Rock you like a Hurricane!
“Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran
Teachers who create engaging learning opportunities filled with creativity, problem solving and critical thinking leave their students wanting more. Students should leave classrooms more excited about the what waits for them the next day. Administrators who give their teachers autonomy and opportunities to learn from and with one another leave their staff wanting more and more. Teachers should leave staff meetings more excited about their learning than when they started the meeting. Whether it is through innovative learning experiences like Genius Hour, STEAM projects, or connecting on social media, learning should create the feeling where learners want to scream “I’m hungry like the wolf.”

“Something to Believe In” by Poison  
Every learner - both adults and students - are geniuses in his or her own way. Each learner has a passion just waiting to be shared. Each learner has an unique way to creatively express his or her passions. How are teachers encouraging this creative passion? Are we allowing staff to drive their own professional learning? Are we providing students relevant learning experiences to be creative? At the end of the day, initiative fatigue kicks in. Students need teachers and teachers need a team of adults to provide them with something to believe in!

“Out Loud” by Dispatch
Relationships are the key to learning. Greeting learners at the door, knowing learners as individuals and not just students, welcoming learners’ ideas and thoughts, thanking learners for participating and being a part of the learning process are ways we can continue to develop and nurture relationships. A true relationship exists when someone accepts your past, supports your present and encourages your future. Every learner needs to know that there is someone who makes them feel proud.

“Danger Zone”by Kenny Loggins
What is the danger zone in today’s classrooms? Perhaps it is the classroom itself. What have schools done to move beyond the factory mentality of the 19th century with desks and chairs? Sitting in rows of desks can limit learning opportunities. Providing flexible, comfortable furniture which can be manipulated to meet the needs of today’s learners and allow students to be communicators, critical thinkers, collaborators, and creative thinkers breaks out of the danger zone and creates learners prepared for college, career and life. How are schools creating learning environments like the offices at Google, Facebook, and Apple so a student can avoid learning in the “Danger Zone”?     

“Here I Go Again On My Own” by Whitesnake
No member of a high functioning professional learning community (PLC) ever said, “Here I go again on my own…...Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.” How should a PLC function? “A Professional learning community (PLC) is an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Professional learning communities operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators” (All Things PLC, Solution Tree). Students deserve a team of professional educators who are willing to share ideas, build formative assessments, focus on student understanding, and celebrate small wins. Does your school allow teachers to walk alone?

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson
The world is changing at a rapid pace. This year’s kindergarteners know more about playing games on a smartphone than they do about inserting a VHS tape in a VCR. The kindergarten class was not introduced to half day kindergarten with a nap. Teachers grew up in classrooms without computers, blogs, VoiceThread, Google Docs, or Skype with an Author. As society continues to change, teaching and learning will change. While we are strong advocates for teacher teams, the truth is that change begins with the man/woman in the mirror. Are you willing to transform teaching and learning in order to meet the needs of today’s students? We know teachers and administrators want to make the world a better place, so take a look at yourself and make a change.

“Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey
As we begin a new school year, teachers and administrators need to hold on to that back-to-school feeling. Several educators claim that they can barely sleep before the first night of school. The idea of working with a new group of students and supporting student understanding is hard to explain to non-educators. We don’t teach for the paycheck or the glory. The highlight is seeing a group of students grow from the beginning of the year to the last day of school. When students are prepared to enter the next level ready for more challenging work and more mature, there is no greater feeling in the world. Throughout the school year, don’t stop believin…..Hold on to that feelin’!

Thank you for choosing to serve as a teacher or administrator. Each year, millions of students enter schools around the globe. Parents drop their child off at the bus stop or in the car rider line, with the hopes that their child will be respected and will grow as a learner. We have a responsibility to provide students with a quality education that will prepare them to graduate College and Career Ready. We hope your staff enters the school year with the following attitude - “Rocket baby! C’mon, we’re gonna fly!”

Next Steps
Take a moment to reply to this post. Explain which song resonated with you. Choose your favorite song or lyrics and share how the song applies to education.

Matt Wachel is an Elementary Assistant Principal with the Park Hill School District (MO).  He is a 2015 ASCD Emerging Leader and Co-Author of the book Having an Impact on Learning due out later this fall.  Connect with Wachel on the ASCD EDge social network, or on Twitter @mattwachel.

Steven Weber is the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (NC).  He is a board member of North Carolina ASCD. Connect with Weber on the ASCD EDge social network, or on Twitter @curriculumblog.

1 comment:

  1. This blog was forwarded to me by my Principal this morning. To have a connection with an Administrator, who not only supports music enrichment for students, also supports and guides the teachers that make our school unique and successful.

    Songs are stories (in many cases, written about life experiences) that are set to music. Our favorite bands connect with us through the stories they tell. How many times have you ever heard a person say, " this song has changed my life?" How many times have you made a personal connection to the lyrics of a song? Though I can not speak for the general public, I would speculate that most people have made a connection to music at some point in their life. I have made a personal connection to the contents of this article. First, many of the songs are songs that I grew up with. I have actually seen most of the bands performing the songs live when I was younger. The truth is this: these songs deliver a positive message that we as teachers (and human beings) can relate to on a daily basis. They inspire me to make a difference in the classroom and at home. They teach us humility and kindness. Thank you for your collaboration on this article. The message is crystal clear.

    This week marks the first week of our 2015 school year. I teach a rock band music program in Atlanta. One of the songs that I have started teaching this week is "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica. Not only have I turned it into a very in depth music theory lesson, the lyrics teach us to go with our hearts, and to believe in ourselves. Isn't that what we want for our students? I will conclude my "reply" with a verse from the song.

    "Trust I seek and I find in you. Every day for us something new. Open mind for a different view. And nothing else matters."

    Thank you