Saturday, April 5, 2008

What!? No Music allowed?!

"O Freunde, nicht diese Tone!
Sondern lafst uns angenehmere
anstimmen und freudenvollere
Freude! Freude!"
"Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.
Joy! Joy!
(from the Chorus of Bethoven's 9th)
Joy to the World
"...singing joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me."
It's A Small World
"It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears.
There's so much that we share that it's time
We're aware, it's a small world after all."

Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'

"Oh, what a beautiful mornin' Oh, what a beautiful day

I've got a beautiful feelin' everything's goin' my way"

Some Folks

"Some folks like to sigh,

Some folks do, some folks do;

Some folks long to die, But that's not me nor you.

*Long live the merry, merry heart that laughs by night and day,

Like the king of mirth, No matter what some folks say.

Some folks fear to smile,

Some folks do, some folks do;

Other's laugh through guile; but that's not me nor you.*

Some folks fret and scold,

Some folks do, some folks do;

They'll soon be dead and cold, but that's not me nor you.*

This has been a busy week for this "guest teacher". Yes, I taught everyday in a different school from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade. I had a wide variety of experiences from very positive and fulfilling to rather negative and limited. It also was April Fool's Day at a Intermediate School...that was fun! They were fake chewing gum and I told them about the great Swedish Scientist "Loop Lirpa". I'd call it a draw.

What was most shocking to me was the one school where the principal told me, "No music allowed here. Follow the detailed lesson plan exactly. We are having State Tests coming up soon and they need to practice them." Wow! I was appalled. Usually when teachers and administrators see me coming on campus with my baritone uke case they smile or comment favorably. One has called me the "wandering troubadore". Ha! This one was quick to assume that I took up time playing and singing songs with the kids and not following the lesson plans. I felt like telling him that I usually just used my music as a "sponge" or time filler for an in-between time or just before recess as they were cleaning up. But no, I said, "Yes, sir."

That's when it all seemed to fall into place about this particular school. I had been there before and noticed how drab, bare and dim the halls were. Every other light was out. Little of the colorful, joyous work was displayed. It was mostly a "ghost town" too, not many teachers in the staff lounge at lunch or even walking in the halls. The kids, out on the playground were the usual kids, loud and boistrous. But at "line up time" things got very serious and controlled. It was very safe and secure that was sure.

We all filed in, a third grade, and got busy on tables memorization and speed drills while we waited for the inter-com announcements for the day and the flag salute from "the principal". He started with a very sweet and sarcastic deriding of a 5th grade class who got caught yesteday "not listening quietly" "There could've been an emergency and then who knows what would happen?" They were told to sit out lunch recess on the tables and benches. All in a very sacarinely sweet way. (kids this age don't get/understand satire) Then he went on to exhort the teacher to teach and reinforce the "character curriculum goals challenge". Then the salute was led by two girls and everyone was told to, "Have a good day of learning."

Well, I had hidden my musical instrument case and had told them I would be following the teacher's lesson plan completely and exactly. There wasn't even a groan. These were amazing kids, and look/acted older for their 3rd grade age. They were attempting multiplication and division drills in 5 mins. or less and were practicing cursive. They got "table points" for being good and "on task". There were no "class clowns" as per usual, and the real academically needy ones were very quiet or shipped off to other classrooms for remedial help. We spent quite some time on our "practice test" on reading and writing and did it together. I was instructed to show them how "distractors" worked and how they can "trick" you if you aren't careful. I also showed them how to look back at the text if in doubt about an answer after narrowing it down to a 50-50 choice. I showed them how to keep their place on the scan-tron answer sheet with one hand (the pencil hand) and also keep their matching place in the test booklet and question stem. (they should alway match) I told them that when I went to U.S.C. I took a course for teacher on "How to write test destrators" with four or five choices. (A, B, C, D etc.) Yes, it is a science and you can learn it.

This is what many of our schools are teaching now. They are under the gun so to speak. This one is a very new and modern school with a lower attendance. I'm wondering if it may be closed next year for lack of funds or for "low test scores". I'd close it for "killing the joy of learning and living" just by not allowing any music, singing etc. This district has a roving Recorder Teacher that goes from 3rd grade to 3rd grade and she mainly teaches how to read music because of it's positive influence on reading and comprehension of math. There's not much joy there either. She is testy and quick to "pouce" on any and all "joyous outbursts" of tooting. Little humor is allowed either. I was playing along with the class and had my recorder sticking sideways out of my mouth. She looked at me and I said, "I'm pretending to be Kenny G." She momentarily smiled. The kids didn't get it. They are so innocent and open "tabala raza"? What are we thinking? What are we doing to them? What are we doing to our future as a nation? Can't we learn and sing about it? RRR


Anonymous said...

Two You Tube performances are worth watching on this subject:

The first is Leonard Bernstein talking about and then conducting Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" He speaks about the universality of this chorus. The second is just the opposite. Little cartoon rabbits are shooting and blowing each other up. RRR

Anonymous said...

I went back there today but into a different room and grade level/wing. These were 1st graders and they loved to sing. We sang three songs with them to back up their Language Arts program. Aloud reading/listening to rhyming words: i.e. book, Frog in a Bog = songs, "Hole in the bottom of the sea" and "There was an old lady, who swallowed a fly" A students journal about "poisonous boa contrictors" he saw at the zoo recently inspired the song/explanation about boas "I'm being swallowed by a boa" They then joined another 1st grade to practice 7 patriotic songs they were "singing along" with a CD for a night time program. We later explained the meaning of those words, nobody had. RRR