I currently teach music, choral and music appreciation, to grades 7-9. It can be a joy and/or a great struggle. Music is an interesting subject matter alone, but can easily cross over into other subject matter not pertaining directly to music. Of course, there is poetry that accompanies the melodies. Songs and styles of music are situated in a certain area, culture, situation, social movement, what have you. Music embodies or at least reflects the historical situation that caused the piece to spring forth out of someone’s consciousness. Music involves acousti-physics and all forms of mathematics. Best of all there is no test. It can be a hiding place for revolutionaries in schools who want to teach beyond the curriculum and allow their students freedom to learn. It’s a place that builds or can build tremendous self-discipline and allow for intellectual and spiritual exploration. Critical thought can be allowed to thrive in a classroom that is free from the oppression that is testing. I taught algebra prior to teaching music. I’m able to be much more human without the test, and still remain sympathetic to my friends and colleagues who remain steadfast in their dual challenge to prepare their students for the test and still strive to teach and build critical learners. It’s difficult, I know. My heart is with you as you struggle.
I have begun the process of teaching music composition to one of my music appreciation classes. This is not a part of the state curriculum; the State seemingly does not concern itself, even in a music classroom, with nurturing creativity. Regardless of prescribed curriculum, it is beyond important that humans discover their ability to create. This is, after all, one of the greatest parts of being human. We possess a tremendous intellect that permits us to create and transform culture. We often need reminding of our ability to create culture. I cannot express the light I saw in Anthony’s face when he brought his staff paper to the piano with some scribbled chords he had written and heard me play what he had written. Anthony is not an average student academically, he struggles in every subject, and spends most of his time in ISS or the principal’s office. He’s beat down and discouraged, he acts out. I got to witness and great moment of humanity and awakening when I saw him arrive at the understanding that he created culture. This goes far beyond behavioral success and efficacy. This enters the realm of metaphysical transformation in a seventh grader with a bad attitude.
All teachers don’t get the privilege or have the desire to teach in the arts. It’s a difficult field. It, like algebra, takes persistence and great persuasion. It’s frustrating. It does allow for creation though on a regular basis. We all know that moment of genesis though, in any course, when a student become more than a passive recipient and enters the realm of creator. It can be as simple as the moment a learn formulates a question based on their own synthesis and analysis of a topic. It can be the designing of a complex or simple equation. Writing a story. A poem. Whatever. Regardless of our subject matter, we must help our students realize that they are creators and transformers of culture. This is how we make them participate more. This is how we help them realize their potential. We have to let them see their own power. They are cultural creators. We have to make that understanding a priority, tests be damned. Teachers are on the front lines of a strange war for the consciousness of a people. We have to give those in our care the tools to be masters of themselves and their worlds. Teachers teach for awakening.