Friday, November 21, 2008

The Power of Music...

I started my career teaching the deaf. If you saw Children of a Lesser God, that is what I did only with Pre-school - Fifth grade kids. I moved to California and taught hearing kids. After an unfortunate year at one school I transferred to a school that was predominantly Air Force officer's families. Life was good. Those kids behaved!

Each year when I was teaching Kinder or First Grade, I taught the kids how to sign a song. We usually did a simple Ella Fitzgerald song. My favorite was her slow jazzy 'White Christmas'. The kids would not sing. They would sign only. During the instrumental bridge, the kids would whip out some Ray Ban Wayfarers and snap their fingers to the music, doing their best to look cool. Just as Ella started to sign again they would fall back into an orderly group and finish their silent sign language interpretation.

I promised them their moms would cry! The kids were beside themselves thinking they could make their moms cry. As they sang, I could see they were gleefully waiting for their moms to cry. It always happened! The kids were thrilled, the mothers thought I was the most wonderful teacher in the world and I'd get my hands kissed by some overwrought mother. All was good with the world.

In 1991, when I had the great opportunity to teach 5th grade to the same group of kids I had taught 1st grade to, we approached it differently. They were all excited about learning a different song. So we planned on doing a song at the Winter Festivals. However, my school had a major review by the state planned and we would perform at the weekly flag ceremony the week the review team visited. Manipulative, huh? I told the kids they could pick the song. So early in the year, probably September, they started to pick songs. It had to have a positive meaning, be pretty repetitive and have simple lyrics. They had a few choices and I was torn. We finally chose "From a Distance". It was great. We were to perform it on January 25.

The First Gulf War started January 16, 1991. By then, most of the fathers and some of the mothers were fighting. I had not only the mothers in the audience, but the principal, the other teachers and the entire review team from the State in tears. My kids, overwhelmed at the sobbing, almost lost it.

I'll never forget the serendipitous choice of songs that the kids made. I returned later for these kids' high school graduation and they all still recalled the entire experience. The power of music is amazing.

1 comment:

Max's Dad said...

That sounds pretty cool. But the first Gulf War? "Fighting"? Really?
Of course I am just being my normal liberal puke smart ass again. Had I been in your class, I'd have held out for Rock the Casbah!