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Monday, April 27, 2015

Music Works

Lessons Learned

Why Music?

They were from the far east side of town, and we were from the far west.  Our lives, our experiences, and our schedules were worlds apart despite the few miles that separated us. It’s not that we couldn’t have been friends; it’s just that our paths would never have crossed. That is, until “The Project,” that cast us all on the same team, transitioned from dream to enactment. Two very different fifth grade worlds were about to collide and in that collision, be called upon to create and then perform a rap depicting the story of our city, our shared story.  It was to be a part of a much larger original musical work entitled, “Hometown History,” and was dreamed and written to be shared by children to an audience of all neighbors from all neighborhoods of our hometown.  It was to serve as a big affirming hug to a city besieged by violence, unemployment, and fear.  It was to be just one step toward building a bridge of hope and trust between neighbors.  The first meeting of the fifth graders  occurred at the west side school and although the air was filled with a certain amount of  tentativeness,  a pinch of suspicion, and a good dollop of curiosity, the lengthy laundry list of tasks to be accomplished while together served to quickly  focus us all  beyond our piddily concerns and doubts. We attended to the business of getting the job done and that demanded immediate cooperative effort; all hands on deck, so to speak. We worked exceedingly hard, we learned, shared, collaborated, laughed, perfected, discussed, fell short, tried again, cheered each other on, applauded ourselves, supported, encouraged, questioned, explained, tried harder, kept practicing, saw progress, high-fived,  and, after a couple of hours, enjoyed a pizza lunch together with these precious new friends.  The next few weeks were committed to practicing on our own at our respective schools.  The second meeting occurred at the east side school, and the air was filled with excitement, anticipation and warmth as we reconvened our awesome fifth grade team.  The local news media showed up to capture the joy of this creative team of fifth grade bridge builders as they zealously rehearsed their proud rap, and sang, danced, played, and laughed as all children should and do from every side of town in every town around the globe. Music brought us together. Music brought balm to hometown afflicted with fear and distrust. Music brought laughter, peace, joy and friendship. Music built a bridge of hope and possibility. Music always does.  Music levels the playing field and invites each one to play. Music is a universal language that transcends circumstances and disengages exclusivity.  Music links us, binds us, welcomes us, and calls us into a shared joy.  Why music? Because it heals our hearts and makes us better.

If you, as a parent or a teacher, need sweet, heart-warming original children’s music to bring joy, esprit de corps, and celebration to your family or to your classroom, please visit the Teachers Pay Teachers store, One Arts Infusion Collaborative, to find simple sheet music and mp4 files of seasonal  and curricularly-relevant songs.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Harriet Tubman

Lessons Learned

The Araminta Project

Harriet “Araminta” Tubman, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, had every reason to surrender to the crushing despair of slavery that oppressed her, her family, and thousands and thousands of others, but she did not succumb. Instead, against all odds and all better judgement, she ran for her life and for her freedom and did not stop until she possessed it. Even then, in the exhilaration and bliss of freedom’s joy, Harriet was not content knowing that countless sisters and brothers still remained bound in the wretched, brutal, hopeless claws of slavery. So back she went, at inconceivable personal risk, to lead more than 300 others to freedom. Harriet made nineteen trips back, undeterred by the $40,000. bounty which was being offered for her capture dead or alive. Courage, perseverance, faith, hard work, generosity, patience, selflessness, confidence, strength, and hope are just a few of Harriet’s attributes that drove her to serve, lead, and rescue others.
This summer, we will gather 100 at-risk and special needs students from grades 3-5, and teach them Harriet’s story through script, song, poetry, dance, and spirituals, which they, then, in turn will share with parents, neighbors, and all in the community through a collection of performances. The cast of 100 will also take a field trip to an Underground Railroad(UGRR) Museum, walk through an actual UGRR tunnel, and then perform Harriet’s story on the lawn of the museum for museum guests. Learning Harriet’s story will teach them history, understanding Harriet’s heroic attributes will inspire their hearts, and performing for adoring audiences will fill their souls with confidence and gladness.  With immense anticipation and excitement, we are tweaking this original musical piece in preparation for the precious children who will learn it. The TpT Store, One Arts Infusion Collaborative, contains one of the “Araminta” songs as sheet music and as an mp4 file.
Harriet Tubman: The Underground Railroad Sheet Music
Harriet Tubman: The Underground Railroad Sing Along

Can’t wait for the Araminta Project!

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Unruly Child

Lessons Learned

Tell The Truth

An unruly child. Incorrigible in many ways. Defiant. Combative. Aggressive. Befriended by other school children through fear, in their efforts to socially navigate the “walking on egg shells” feeling of coexistence with one so different from them; this was the standard and daily classroom MO in room 237. Laughing a little too loudly and often at classroom jokes that weren’t particularly humorous in order to offer affirmation and esprit de corps to one who didn’t fit; this too seemed a daily survival strategy. But this was no way to learn. And this was no way to live. It was dysfunction. Head-in-the-sand, turn-a-blind-eye, sweep-it-under-the-rug, anything-but-address-it dysfunction. What happened to the tow-the-line, call-it-what-it-is, own-it type of honesty? Can we truly improve if we do not face the problem? Can we truly grow if we do not seek to acknowledge truth? Can we be set free from the demons of defensiveness over our painful circumstances if we are unwilling to look deeply and compassionately into those very circumstances that fuel our rage and plot a path out? Hope is not found in the place where we ignore truth, but rather hope dwells in a place where we humbly recognize truth and bravely, deliberately commit to a stronger path. Hope is for every child, every student who is led by a courageous teacher, parent, grandparent, coach, or pastor who will not settle for anything short of honesty. Honesty is never the easy way, however, because honesty requires engagement and disclosure, which in turn require time, vulnerability, and trust. One child, one student, one life at a time, we must make the time for honesty, for ultimately it is the only way each one can be set on a trajectory of hope and possibility. Less than that will cripple the future and diminish dreams.  The unruly child didn’t really want to be so. The unruly child wanted normalcy and simply had no idea how to get there. The unruly child needed the honesty and compassion and strong leadership of one who wouldn’t allow any sort of settling for less. The unruly, lonely, hurting, fragile, despairing child daily struck out in the rage of accumulated pain, with actions screaming “help me” and everyone standing by saying “you’re just fine.” When did we stop telling the truth?