Friday, September 23, 2016

Year 7: Week 5 - The Drum Lesson And The Lives That Matter

The feeling was bordering on panic. Plans started to fall apart before my eyes and I had to figure out how to make things work. There was equipment that I could not find, people I had to arrange and a lesson I had to teach that I hadn't prepared. We were finishing up our instrument introductions in 6th grade and I was going to see all of the girls to give them an introductory percussion lesson. I felt I could handle it but things did not feel right.

I stood there on stage without enough drum pads and barely enough sticks when the first girls came into the auditorium. I invited her up to the stage and we got to work. We worked on the grip, arm position and the single stroke and started making things happen.

Then we were off and immediately, all of the stress and previous worries disappeared and we were having a blast. The girls were learning, I was able to really teach them what work is like in the percussion world and even with the large class; I was able to provide a lot of individual feedback.

One of the things I love about teaching beginning band instruments is that there are so many opportunities to make that light bulb light up. Standing there across form one of the girls at the end of class, teaching her different drum strokes and watching her get it, I couldn’t help feel the same accomplishment for my own work that I saw in her eyes.


When she started her speech, she was clearly nervous. At the end of her presentation, she was crying emotional tears as we all gave her a standing ovation. Tears started welling up in my eyes as well and when I looked back at some of my fellow teachers I could see the emotion in their eyes as well.

She was one of the primary organizers of two Black Lives Matter student protests in Chicago last year. This work required bravery, determination, self-belief and a powerful sense of justice. For her to stand in front of her peers and teachers, the entire school and share her story required her to dip back into that well take a chance to share her story with the school.

In the applause of the audience and the questions that followed, I felt a strong sense of our school’s community, and our mission. We are a school that talks about social justice, fights for diversity and inclusion and values citizenship. Her work embodied what we strive for in our school.

Students continually called her a hero. It wasn’t because she focused on doing something for herself and won a trophy. She didn’t beat any one of a sports field; She was a hero because she fought for justice, for herself and others.  This is what my school values.  This is what I value.

He presentation was one of those special moments that strengthens my belief in my school.  The soul of a school is not found in textbooks or test scores.  It's found in moments likes these.

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