Friday, January 27, 2017

Year 7: Week 20 – Feminism In 5th Grade Music

 “Mr. Tang, I took my sax home and practiced!”

I was pretty surprised when this student came up to me and told me this. He was a good kid, and I was always on his case to practice more, but he never really did. I told him that, I was happy that he had done some work at home and I tried to figure out why he decided to put in more effort.

Then it hit me. We had just started working on “Glory,” from the film Selma. This student was African-American and he was visibly excited about this song. Because he saw himself in the art, got him excited.

It’s always interesting to see what topics draw kids out and get them interested in class. I always have those certain kids who regularly raise their hand and keep discussions going in class, but sometimes, you find certain topics that excite the students who normally don’t jump in.

We’ve been learning about gender inequity issues in the music industry. We studied statistics related to the gender break down of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the iTunes best-selling list and both were far away from representing the 50.8% of our population that are women.

In doing this work and discussing this topic, I noticed certain students who normally didn’t actively engage in class discussions raising their hands a lot when discussing this topic. Most of these students were girls but a couple of these students were boys.

This was a hard topic for 5th graders and I couldn’t give them all of the answers to this complex topic, but they really worked on it and tried hard to think through this issue. I explained that the point of our work on this issue was not to come up with answers but to become more aware of this issue and ask questions.

Part of me expected that they would have more questions, but I think for many of the students many of the statistics were surprising and they were just trying to process the information.

We are a school that talks about school segregation not as history but as a present issue. It’s important that we talk about feminist issues in the same way. When you do these things, and have honest conversations with students, they come to life. When I acknowledge the issue of gender inequity in music, I recognized that there are girls in my classroom and that they have worth and value. This resonated with many girls and some of the boys.  When these students raise their hands, and I call on them, I'm giving them the opportunity to strengthen the muscle of citizenship, which can change the world.

I hope that the students who didn’t immediately show interests in this work will come away with exposure to this topic, which will plant seeds for further exploration in the future.

This is the good work.

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