swim, chem, baseball, I talk with my hands
My students know that I play music in my classroom – it’s probably one of my defining characteristics as a high-school teacher. (I am a bit sad writing this…) I didn’t start out trying to make it a “thing.” Really, I only wanted to center myself during my free periods and relax as the day progressed. Over the years my music edged from being played just during personal time to shared class time. And that’s the key – class time is shared time with students, and my job is to serve them and create the best environment for learning.
Here’s a loaded phrase: “best environment for learning.” I am shocked to look back on what I thought was a proper environment when I started teaching. “Back in the day” I certainly was less tolerant of random student behavior for I was fearful of what might happen when students were let loose. I think I squashed many student attempts at just having fun and being – well – 15 years old. I apprenticed under the watch of a master teacher who was very rigid in lesson design and every topic had a handout and a detailed plan. I admired her diligence and planning and I learned that she encouraged learning by being as prepared as possible. As a result I learned the supreme value of this, which lasts with me to my current teaching.
Yet, there’s no way that I would still be teaching if I didn’t allow for spontaneity… from me! I am at my best when I am fun and open to what is in front of me and positive in my approach to the students in front of me. If I am having a good time then there is a chance that my students can do so too. I also know that when I am NOT having a good time there is little chance that my students can do so either. Chemistry can be challenging to many, and AP Chemistry is absolutely brutal, so any softening might help things along the way.
At least that’s what I think now, as an old fart trying to connect with students over 30 years younger than I am. So my music centers me and I adapted to the various forms of playing music over the years. For years I used a cassette tape player, that was also an AM/FM radio, until that was broken by a student. (Funny aside: his parents refused to pay me for the broken device because they said it was my fault for having it in the classroom.) That was replaced by a CD player and then by an MP3 player (iPod). Each afforded me a bit more control over what music was played and the variety of songs. I now use Pandora music.
Started four years ago, it has become an adjunct to my life in a very personal way. My Pandora station just “gets me” and has all but replaced my need to buy and store single songs or digital music. On a whim I started a station based upon “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus and it has grown to included a wide range of genres and eras. And I am constantly pruning and grooming along the way, with the product being what you can click to listen at the top of this post. And I am listening to this as I write this post…