Saturday, February 14, 2009
My own Blues
Yesterday, I gave a presentation on the history of the blues in two of my student teacher's classes. First time in about three years I returned to the front of the classroom. I jokingly told Chip (student teacher) he should critique me. I think he took me seriously, though. I'll have to fix that.
He's teaching all his cooperating teacher's classes for the next 3 weeks and there are three sections of a class called Arts and Communication. I think it's a catch-all media literacy type of course. Since they were doing a unit on the history of Rock & Roll, he asked me to present some material on the blues. In planning the unit I suggested some things and let him know I had a fairly strong background in working with blues music. I thought it might also be a good opportunity to model teaching to him. All three of the groups are very different. One group is definitely more talkative. One is at the beginning of the day and one is the last class of the day; both have very different personalities because of the time frame.
Yesterday went fairly well. I have the early morning group to go next week, but here are some thoughts.
As always, students are very receptive to music; especially when the teacher whips out a harmonica and plays a riff or two. Lots of kids know very little about the origin of popular music in America with the beginning coming, in their heads, somewhere in the 60s. One class was particularly resistant to bring up race, but through the courage and curiosity of one student finally did.
The student population of this school is very different than my old school. It's quite likely that this early blues music is unlike anything they've ever heard. I know much of the history is also new to them as well.
Chip tells me that the group next week is his biggest challenge, and somehow I've never observed this class before. It'll be good to tweak the lesson plan a bit so that I can keep them engaged. I think they may enjoy writing a blues lyric, especially if it is about themselves.
A final note: In one of the classes yesterday is a girl who lives in her wheelchair. She has an aide most days, but the aide wasn't there yesterday. We helped her write some things down (she is severely paralyzed) and I was pleased that she participated a bit in the discussion. When the class was over, she remained behind and then came forward to talk to me. "You're the first person named Bruce I've ever met that was a nice person."
"Oh really, why is that," I said.
"My father is named Bruce but he abandoned me when I was 7."
"Well I hope I'm the first of may more Bruces you meet that are all nicer than the one before."
She smiled but returned to telling me a few more times how she had been abandoned at age 7.
Everybody's got their own blues, I guess.