Recently, I donned my cowgirl boots, curled my hair, and headed off to a couple of music concerts that have been on my bucket list for a while – Dolly Parton and Jason Aldean. It just so happened that both singers were going to be playing a short drive from my TN home. I really love music of most any kind, but I suppose my farm-bred roots make my go-to choice country. I grew up visiting Dollywood theme park and listening to southern gospel music and pretty much anything with a country twang. So, to say I was pumped for these concerts would be a huge understatement — a little time away to just enjoy the show. I guess you know you are a teacher, though, when… you can’t even go to a concert without having your classroom on the brain. Well, that’s me; so, here are five teachable moments from my concert adventures.
1) Come Out On Fire and Rock It From Opening to Closing
Both Dolly Parton and Jason Aldean literally came out to the stage on fire. Dolly even came out singing her version of one of my favorite songs, “Girl on Fire.” Jason Aldean emerged from behind of a flaming “A.” The excitement of the anticipation of moment was thrilling, and I was amazed by the attention to detail that the display demonstrated. And, for over two hours both country crooners belted out their melodies and danced non-stop. What does this have anything to do with my classroom? At the concerts, I was captivated by the creativity and excitement of the opening sets, and I believe students like a little flair, too. Even if it’s just a quick video clip, song, or a related image to set the tone, it will amp the mood of the lesson and create enthusiasm. Maybe it won’t be fire and lights, but students do appreciate when lessons are more relatable and eye-catching.
2) Connect with the Audience
Despite the flashy bright lights and smoke and the distance from the stage to the seats, Dolly and Jason Aldean both made every attempt to recognize the audience. Dolly even went as far as to tell us several times that she could see us and how much she loved to see that her fans were standing and singing along with her. Jason Aldean often paused to wave at the cheap seats, and once when he spotted a less-than-enthusiastic attendee who apparently had his arms crossed, JA encouraged him to clap along! Of course, everyone knew the words to the songs, me included, and several times throughout the concert, the performers would turn the microphone outward and let the crowd take the lead. Sometimes when I’m teaching I am so involved in preparing my lessons to meet certain standards, and I’m so driven to prep for tests, that I forget who my audience actually is – real kids. And not only that, but they need to be engaged and involved. I needed to be reminded there must a healthy balance between creation and consumption in the classroom. The “real world” is, after all, a hands-on project.
Dolly Parton’s music is known for being of a story-telling nature, and so is country music, of course, by definition. The power of a perfectly crafted song that tells a story packs a punch and lasts in the hearts of the audience for a long time, if not forever. We are drawn in by the pathos, and we get attached to the emotional, dramatic, and sensory experience. Not only do the songs themselves often tell a story, but both artists paused to relate the stories behind several of the songs. I once attended a Marcia Tate workshop where she shared specific brain-based teaching strategies. Telling stories to make a personal connection made the list because it reaches verbal linguistic and auditory learners. I loved hearing the background of the songs and the personal experiences each performer told. My students are no different. I believe any type of learner would enjoy hearing a personal experience (related to the topic) every now and then.
4) Smoke and Lights and Graphics
I don’t know about you, but my classroom is not equipped with any smoke machines, and I only have three rows of harsh fluorescent lighting. Regretfully, I guess I won’t be having cool smoke and lights, but that doesn’t mean that my presentations, worksheets, and other materials have to be dull and boring. I like to use authentic pictures and even clip art that I’ve made from photos I take. Many classrooms now have at least a projector, and a lot of classrooms have an interactive whiteboard. It takes a little time to plan and create lessons with a little more visual and interactive jazz, but I always find it is so worthwhile. I enjoy it and so do the students.
5) Have Tons of Screaming Fans
Maybe you are smirking a little as you read this one; I did, too, when I thought of it. Oh how nice it would be to have 20,000 screaming fans wearing shirts with my name and picture and holding “I ❤ Mrs. Faulkner” signs in the air. I’ll keep dreaming. I went to those concerts because I love their music, and I am drawn in each time I hear a familiar song on the radio. I go to those playlists on my iPod over and over. In teaching, we often don’t get a ton of compliments or accolades – and no one is making any #1 fan signs for us. Teachers have a hard job and have to be tough, and sometimes students/parents don’t appreciate why we do what we do. Every now and then, though, either when I taught in college or now in high school, a student will take me again for a second course or different class. That is such an amazing feeling to know they came back by choice! And every once in a while, a former student will come back for a visit and stop to let me know how much he/she learned in my class or that mine was actually his/her favorite. I am reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou here, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”