Volume XII Issue VI
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I recently saw a posting on Facebook that read: “Life is a song! Sing it!” As a lifelong music enthusiast, I could easily identify with the message. While riding in the car later that day a song came on the radio that reminded me of the wonders of childhood. Later on as I was surfing the web, I came across a clip in which children were immersed in learning (and joy) as their teacher sang a song with them. I concluded that the stars must be aligned and I was inspired to devote a newsletter to music and connect songs to the important work that teachers do every day. I settled on the title “Classroom Anthems” after reading the definition of anthem as “an uplifting song identified with a particular group or body.” Hopefully the ideas presented below will lift the spirits of teachers and remind them of how important they are in the lives of children. I present my top ten songs (along with segments of lyrics) that represent the influential impact that teachers can have on their young charges.
- “Wind Beneath My Wings”
Bette Midler: Beaches soundtrack
“It might have appeared to go unnoticed.
But I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.”
Young people sometimes have difficulty expressing their true feelings. But in their private moments when they are alone in their thoughts, they quietly reflect on their deepest feelings about the adults in their lives who have ignited that spark that began a journey to unforeseen or unimaginable achievements. As teachers, we all hope to instill in our students a desire to soar to new heights. The words to the song represent not what students express to us directly but the thoughts children would like to express to many of their teachers.
- “Children Will Listen”
Barbra Streisand: Back to Broadway
“Careful the things you say, children will listen
Careful the things you do, children will see….and learn
Children will look to you for which way to turn.”
Until you have stood in front of a group of students day after day doing your best to communicate with them, you do not really have a clear idea of what it’s like to be a teacher or how complicated the job can be. As lessons unfold, a teacher might be thinking, “Are they really listening to me?” or “Is this making sense to them?” or “Is this lesson working?” The vast majority of students are watching and listening to their teachers very closely. The reality is that young people are bombarded with potential models in their lives and as school employees, we must always remember that we are one of the most significant role models in students’ lives. Although it may appear that they are inattentive, surprisingly they can recall with close accuracy our demeanor, our attitude, our enthusiasm, and our passions. The influences we have on young people are an important part of their overall development.
- “School Day”
Chuck Berry: The Great Twenty-Eight
“Up in the mornin’ and out to school,
The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule.”
As I recalled the lyrics to this “oldie,” I wondered if today’s students really know what the “Golden Rule” is. Because kids today are exposed to many conflicting messages through television, the Internet, and social media, it is more important than ever for teachers to be a consistent mainstay in their lives who promote the practice of treating each other the way we want to be treated. Bullying has become a problem in some school environments, and although schools implement specific anti-bullying campaigns, it is the teacher who can promote and reinforce the “Golden Rule” in the classroom and thus have an important influence on student attitudes and behaviors.
- “Pure Imagination”
Josh Groban: Stages
“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.”
Again and again I hear adults talk about their favorite teacher as individuals who took them to places in their lessons that they might never have imagined. It is the teacher who can promote creative thinking and open-mindedness that will cause them to be remembered by their students in the future. The best educators let their students explore possibilities, ask challenging questions, and envision things that are outside the accepted paradigm. These are often the most productive and happiest classrooms.
- “Music of My Heart”
Gloria Estefan and ‘N Sync: Music of My Heart soundtrack
“Through the days ahead I’ll think of days before,
You made me hope for something better and made me reach for something more.”
With poverty levels in our country on the rise, education is still viewed by many as the great equalizer. So many stories emerge from our educational institutions about children who were taught to dream about possibilities from their teachers. Our schools are the places where children learn about the world, overcome their disadvantages, and begin to see themselves as successful achievers. Our classrooms are places where learning can transcend the traditional curricular content when teachers “get inside their children’s hearts” and help them see a brighter future they can have. One of the most uplifting messages a teacher can hear is, “I will be the first member of my family to go to college.”
- “Not While I’m Around”
Barbra Streisand: The Broadway Album
“Nothing’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around.
No one’s gonna hurt you, no one’s gonna dare.”
Teachers have the responsibility of ensuring that their classrooms are safe, non-threatening environments. This can occur when adults are tuned in to individual students to note any fears or insecurities they might have. Students must feel safe, both physically and mentally. Classrooms must be places where insults, intimidations and undue criticisms are non-existent or minimized. Should negative behavior occur, teachers could seize these opportunities to make sure they do not reoccur. When children feel safe, their minds open wider and they can concentrate on their learning.
- “I Believe I Can Fly”
Kelly: Space Jam soundtrack
“See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me.”
We never know what words or events will resonate with our students. Our role as educators is to consistently support and encourage all the young people with whom we work. Through our words and actions, they must come to believe that we will not give up on them. Over time, that spark of productivity can ignite, and for that inspired student, there is no turning back. Our reward may come when they return to our classroom one day to tell us the story of their success and the impact we had on their transformation.
- “You Raise Me Up”
Josh Groban: Closer
“When I am down and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me.”
Every individual in the school environment can have an impact on a student whether you are a teacher, counselor, administrator or a member of a support staff. In my career, I have seen the effect a secretary, a custodian and a bus driver have had on an individual student by being the adult who was willing to listen, to demonstrate a caring attitude and to have the student understand that one of the most important responsibilities that school personnel have is to support any student when that support was needed. When we “come and sit awhile” with a troubled student, he or she will know that they are not alone and that someone understands their plight.
- “You Are So Beautiful”
Joe Cocker: I Can Stand A Little Rain
“You are so beautiful to me.”
The lyric is simple but also complex since the term “beautiful” in the title is not limited to physical characteristics or outward appearance. A student’s self-image can have a huge impact on one’s ability to concentrate, to participate and to learn. Too often a cruel remark or a hurtful comment can have a devastating impact on an individual, particularly when students reach adolescence. The explosive use of social media among older students has resulted in the posting of painful and injurious messages by some peers. As adults, we may not be able to control what students do but we can help to forestall the negative impact of the unfortunate immaturity of some students by being vigilant and noting when certain students begin to close down or exhibit withdrawn behavior. Often a kind word, a supportive comment, a compliment, or positive recognition can help a student be assured that they are a “beautiful” person in many, many ways.
- “The Greatest Love of All”
Whitney Houston: Whitney Houston
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
The anthem above best captures the essence of the salient work that educators do. It is a powerful lyric that really needs no further explanation and it sums up the messages imbedded in the other listed songs. It has often been said that people do not enter the field of education to become rich. We do not always gain financial rewards but when we stop to reflect on the impact we can have on the human condition, the riches are truly boundless.
Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution of this newsletter for non-commercial use only. Please include the following citation on all copies:
Oliver, Bruce. “Classroom Anthems.” Just for the ASKing! June 2015. Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK). © 2015 Just ASK. All rights reserved. Available at www.justaskpublications.com.