Friday, March 28, 2014

Singing a New Tune

I’ll admit it – I do NOT love this fourth grade class.  It is huge, it has been a revolving door of children moving in and leaving, it is filled with some of the most immature students I have ever taught, it does not have a supportive parent base, and all of my efforts to instill skills like respect, responsibility, effort, and listening seem to have literally fallen on deaf ears.  Sadly, I am looking forward to May.  I feel at some level I have failed this group.  On another level, I am simply frustrated that this year has been nothing but one challenge after another.
I have made few connections with my students.  I have had a short temper.  I have not taught well.
Today – however – there was a very rare bright spot.  I love to sing – and have an OK voice.  But I do not enjoy teaching music to my kids so there is little of it going on in my classroom.  This time of year we are deep into a US states and regions unit.  I love it, as I have always been a geography buff.  I decided years ago to incorporate songs from the regions into my instruction.  I don’t play an instrument – so I simply downloaded songs like “Home on the Range”, “Roll On Columbia”, “Blow Ye Winds In the Morning”, and “The Wabash Cannonball”.  These are songs most modern kids will have never heard.  I also teach “This Land is Your Land”.  We talk about the folk music movement and the activist movement.  We discuss some of the artist who sing these songs.  We learn about the lyrics of each song.  But mostly – we just sing.  When I told my kids we were going to learn some songs, they all moaned.  Oh great I thought, This will be a group who just hates this.   But, I kept upbeat.  I persevered.  I also joked that any kid who did not sing would have to do a solo.  Eyes bugged out.  “Home on the Range” was this week, along with “This Land…”  Today, they couldn’t wait to sing.  They asked about it all day.  And when we finally had a few moments, and I plugged in the iPhone and keyed up the music – they sang their hearts out.  They can’t wait to learn a new song next week.
I had to smile.  It was one of the few times this year that ALL the kids were engaged, upbeat, happy, and participating.  I’m sure there are a few lessons I should be learning here – but, for today – I’ll simply be satisfied with the warm feelings I came away with, the connections I felt, and the anticipation of more of the same in the weeks to come!

Quotes of the day: 

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.  You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.                       ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  ~Berthold Auerbach


  1. I am so sorry that you are having such a rough year. I feel like I have been there more than I haven't. It sounds like you have an uphill battle just through your demographic. It's so important to embrace this breakthrough with music and keep that momentum going. I'm sure that there are lots of ways that you can incorporate music throughout many more lessons in the future. That is a huge success and you should definitely feel proud of the connection you have made!

  2. It is such a challenge when we have a difficult class. It is so draining.Hopefully you have support - of your principal and other teachers. It does help sometimes just to unburden. Connecting with music is wonderful.

  3. i read the first part of your post and it carried me back to last year. Looking back I am not even sure how I stayed sane, but I did. i wrote a post for myself (, but it might help you too. In estonian we have a saying "Years aren't brothers" meaning that the years can be very different. I hope that next year will be better for you.
    Reading the second part of your post I admired how skillfully you used music for learning and community building. Keep singing!