I would like to begin this entry in my blog by asking you to watch the following video:
When you do, focus on the following. Note how the children involved are engaged in the process of what they are doing, how safe they have to feel in order to express themselves in the way that they do, what it must have taken to get a group of children in a public school to work that hard and to work together, and the commitment of the young man playing the piano, who leads these children in their singing. That man, Gregg Breinberg, came to music education and decided that maybe there was a new way to engage children, one that did not rely upon the so-called “school band” sound that pervades music training for young children. The standard pedagogy focuses upon old standards, such “America the Beautiful” and “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore.” And while these are indeed fine songs, they may no longer really speak to children as well as they might. So Breinberg tried something new; he decided to develop vocal harmony in modern rock and soul songs. This meant teaching his kids to sing songs by Talking Heads, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos, and in the case of this video, the rock band Phoenix.
Imagine being a kid in Staten Island, where these kids are located. Imagine learning to sing a song by someone like Tori Amos, likely a singer you might never have heard of, but who is a modern pop singer. So you learn the song. And then you are asked to travel across the river to sing a short set of songs in New York City, and lo and behold, when you get there, so does Tori Amos, who then sings with you! http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com/2007/05/ps22-chorus-featuring-tori-amos.html
This is innovation in action. Mr. Breinberg had formal training as a music educator, knew the standard methods for teaching music, and out of that created a new way of teaching children to sing in choir that stood the world on its head. Yet his success is undeniable and reading his blog, linked immediately above, can make you feel much better about education in general.
Then, look at this little clip of MD Weathers teaching math at Biola College:
Think about how long it must have taken him to set this up. How committed he has to be to his students to invest the time and the creativity to his teaching efforts. Yet again, this is an example of a teacher moving beyond standard pedagogy, trying something new and novel, something humorous and yet engaging. In both of these teachers we see efforts to keep students engaged, to keep them just a little bit off balance, to ensure they participate with what is going on in the classroom. And the question for all of us, what can we do that might shake up a standard classroom setting? Can we bring in media? I am experimenting with using the TV program House to teach examples of bioethics (or in House’s case, usually, violations of bioethics). Can we try new methods? What might those methods be? Think about it, and give it a shot; it will be enjoyable for you and exciting for your students.