About Me

My photo
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Friday, 25 May 2012

When Classical Music Actually Works!

This week, my class were... amazing.  I can't really do justice, with mere words, to how impressed I've been.  I suppose my two week absence from the bloggosphere might tell you something.  It's been a long and massively busy few weeks.  Amidst all my prep, marking and many late nights, my class have been absolutely amazing.
Nailed it.  Except I'm a dude... and I'm bald... and my kids' parents don't undervalue me... I sleep well... and I don't chase kids... or get pranked.   Other than all that - Nailed it.
For the successes of this week, I have a few interesting fellas to thank.

Thank you, Mario Parodi.  Thank you, Grandpa.  Thank you, Messrs Chopin, Debussy and Beethoven.
Thank you, H-Bomb.  Thank you, Oliver Sacks.  Thank you, Bruce Ferrington. 

Spinning Vinyls with my Homies in 4RPB

I inherited my Grandpa's vinyls a few years back.  His Sinatra.  His Tchaikovsky.  His line dancing 78's... yup.  His French lessons (for my Ma when they lived in Paris).   Most of these vinyls from the 60's.  Most in mint condition - as Grandpa would have insisted they be kept.  One vinyl of interest is called, "January Twenty-Sixth" and it is a 1967 opera about the 'making' of Australia.  It's fascinating. 

Congratulations, conquerors! Jolly Good!
As part of our latest inquiry, I thought the kids would get a kick out of hearing a vinyl spinning in class.  I dug out the record and Mr Ferrington (esteemed colleague) dug out a record player.  When we combine our powers, Fezz and I can make awesome happen.

The soundtrack to Australia's history is as hilarious as is it sadly Euro-centric.  Yup... just more white dudes carrying on about how brilliantly they 'civilised' a savage land. The 'Dreamtime' of 40,000 years of Indigenous Australia gets exactly 7 seconds of coverage.   The kids were amazed and disappointed (again) on many levels.


While we're at it spinning vinyls, why not try some classical? Just for kicks.

Digging through Grampy's records, I also uncovered a 1966 pressing of "Mario Parodi Plays The Classical Guitar".  The other day I played the record from start to finish during a sustained writing task.  The kids had been well prepped and they were deeply invested in the task, but nothing really prepared me for what happened next.

I knew it was a possibility, but I still didn't see it coming.
45 minutes of absolute, sustained, deeply engaged, thoughtful, mindful writing which I am now marking and marvelling at.  I knew at the time that something special was happening.  I knew that the writing was looking very good.  I could sense, as could the kids, that 'we' were nailing the task, collectively.

Now... I've been playing music to my kids for years, particularly classical music during intensive concentration tasks.  This was different.  This was as richly engaged as I've seen kids get.... and they haven't switched off since.  I gave them a dose of Tchaikovsky yesterday with a similarly amazing effect.  I'll share what a 10 yr old girl wrote if her ma gives me permission.  My 'lowest attaining' boy wrote two full pages, unassisted... circling spelling changes... applying knowledge of content and grammar simultaneously.

Leaving me with more questions than I have time to ponder on my own...

My questions are many.  Is vinyl the magic in this mix?  Is the richness of tone (as opposed to mp3) something that has 'struck a chord' with the minds of my mini-beasts?  Is classical guitar sufficiently different from the chamber orchestra sound to make classical music more accessible?  Is my class just peaking early?  Are they just super-engaged with this inquiry?  What is doing?

While I pondered these questions, a timely email arrived in my inbox.  
I will write more about the sender in future blogs. H-Bomb is an inspiration to me.
 I received this link - as if 'H' had read my thoughts:

I understand if you don't make it back to this humble blog once you click this link.  I still 'tear-up' at it.  
So for now, I'll leave you with one final sentiment.  

Music is still 'the quickening art' and I won't be underestimating it again anytime soon.  

Peace, Love and Understanding.


Sarah Sullivan said...

Love it when it all comes together- kids, teacher, learning and education! It is what makes our 'jobs' worthwhile and so rewarding! Well done to you Mr Black for inspiring the future of this country! Job well done sir!

Sarah Sullivan said...

OH- and I watched the video- it made me cry! What an amazing gift music can be!

Richard Black said...

Thanks, Sarah. Glad you've enjoyed this.
I'm always interested to hear what music other teachers play to their kids. Do you have a go-to playlist? Are there certain genres that you find work for certain task styles?
Think I've got some research ahead of me.
First port of call, Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia.
Thanks again for your comments.