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October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween! Be Playful and Artistic in School on Holidays

Dressing up and playing (often challenging) "scary" music is good curricular and instructional practice. It encourages young adolescents to be kids again in an increasingly frightening adult world—playful and artistic, sharing their burgeoning talents with their community.

March 01, 2017

4 Reasons the Arts Are the Most Important Academic Discipline

For arts teachers, this is the ongoing, contentious, core issue in their pedagogical practice: What is the value of what I do? How do I share my conviction that the arts are essential in the lives of children? Why does artistic expression typically carry less weight than other fields and specialties?

October 21, 2016

Reflections from a Nasty Woman: What's at Risk for Women Who "Come Forward"?

It is undeniable that character matters greatly in public leadership. Women who recognize and call out sexism and the sometimes-subtle aspects of rape culture are correct. And it isn't until the moral rot is laid bare and understood that we have any chance of living in a better, safer, more equitable world. We're not there yet, as this election illustrates.

August 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and Every Marching Band Director in America

Every school music teacher in America has wrestled with the national anthem. Hard to sing (covering an octave and a fifth), written in an unfriendly key signature, lyrically confounding and attached to a disreputable tune, it nevertheless maintains a strange hold on public sentiment. We expect to hear it, for some hard to trace reason, every Friday night at football games, and a raft of other occasions. We expect citizens to show reverence for this music (although singing the words is considered optional, even embarrassing).

April 30, 2016

Does Everyone Get to Be on Stage in Student Performances?

Teachers are not always good at deciding who gets the spotlight and who is benched (or forced to stay home) when trying to present their best face to the public. Often, students rise to a special occasion. Can what's best for a difficult child also be good for his classmates, as they learn about getting along, performing and making music--a community activity? Could this be a teachable moment?

April 05, 2016

In Praise of the Field Trip

What is a field trip's ultimate purpose? How will the students apply what they have learned? What are their takeaways? And--because these are the questions we hear most often in national policy discussion--was this content standards-based? Could it be delivered (and measured) more efficiently and effectively? Say, in a video or interactive computer game? I'm going to go ahead and answer that question: No.

November 30, 2015

Four Tips for Teachers on Holiday Performances

There is not and never has never been a "War on Christmas" in public schools. Everyone in America gets Christmas, for weeks, whether they want it or not. The First Amendment lets us sort this out, school by school, keeping educational integrity uppermost. School leaders can serve as models of inclusive and respectful citizenship--a more admirable goal than majority domination.

July 03, 2015

Whiplash: Worst Teacher Movie Ever

Here's the thing: you can be a superb, meticulous, demanding music teacher without being a hostile jerk. You can also be a driven, determined, even obsessed music student, bent on creative brilliance and perfection, without being inhuman or ruthless. In a movie supposedly about "what it takes" to achieve true excellence in performance, we never saw Fletcher teach, or drummer Miles Teller's ambitious character, Nieman, learn anything about music via guidance, example or instruction. Everything that was accomplished happened via psychological manipulation: Terror. Lies. Tricks. Bodily abuse. Even, God help us, suicide.

December 22, 2014

Football Players and Band Members Meet in the Middle at the Holiday Concert

Student athletes and student musicians have lots in common--they're kids who are seriously engaged in wholesome, school-based activities that have a big impact on their development and eventual lives, careers and citizenship. Pitting them against each other is a selfish mistake. "School spirit" is a real and valuable thing. Its other name: Community.

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The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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