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How Phillip Phillips Can Start and End Your School Year

Readers of this blog know what a big fan I am of using music in the classroom.  Kids love music.  Many of them identify with music.  Music often speaks to them and captures their attention far better than our words could ever hope to do.  Music can be used to set a tone, to create a mood, and to build a positive atmosphere.

Music can also be used to communicate a message.  As you seek to Go Beyond the Content with your students, do not underestimate the power of music.  A song that tells a story can, when shared by a compassionate teacher, can serve as a compass in the life of a young person.  For the teacher who wants her classroom to be more than just content and skills, for the teacher who wants to impact the direction of a young person's life, music is a powerful tool.

(To learn more about what it means to Go Beyond the Content, visit gobeyondthecontent.com.  For a detailed list of "Go Beyond the Content" songs to consider using in your classroom, visit gobeyondthecontent.com/music.html.)

So here's a suggestion for a way to use music to send a message in your classroom on Day 1 this year AND a suggestion for a great way to use music to wrap up your school year.  Hey - I know it's summer and you'd rather not be thinking about the upcoming school just yet, but it will be here before you know it!

The suggestion is: Try starting and finishing your school year with Phillip Phillips.

Great teachers make sure that Day 1 starts with a BANG.  The last thing you want to be is the teacher described as boring or dull by students when their parents ask them how their first day went.  You want to get their attention right away, and the best way to do this is to Go Beyond the Content from Day 1.  There will be plenty of time to go over your syllabus, to discuss late work policies, and state standards.  On Day 1, WOW them.  Let them see who you are as a person.  Show them you care.  Make them feel excited about being in your classroom.  Share with them the vision you have for them - not just as students, but as people, and not just for content, but for life.  

(For ideas for starting your year off this way, you might check out Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.)

So how about if on Day 1 you play for your students Home by Phillip Phillips?  Are you familiar with Home?  You could try showing them the music video.  You could try making a PowerPoint with the lyrics.  You could even have pictures of last year's students to help you illustrate your message, but use the song to explain to your students that you care deeply for them and plan to make your classroom their home this year.  

Check out the lyrics below, and see if they don't apply wonderfully to the classroom - especially if your students are in a transition year:

Hold on, to me as we go

As we roll down this unfamiliar road

And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along

Just know you're not alone

Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear

Don't pay no mind to the demons

They fill you with fear

The trouble it might drag you down

You've get lost, you've can always be found

Just know you're not alone

Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Think any of your students are a little worried about rolling down this unfamiliar road?  Anyone in your classroom anxious about being alone?  Ever met a young person filled with fear?  I bet this describes 75% or more of your students!  What a great message to send on Day 1: Don't be afraid.  You're not alone, I'm here to make this place feel like home!

Once your students hear you explain the importance of a specific song, it begins to take on new meaning, even if it's a song they've heard a 1000 times before.  I'd recommend not only playing this song on the first day, but finding opportunities for it to play throughout the school year.  Perhaps quietly in the background when students are taking at test, or as they're entering the room to start class or the day, or while they're working in groups on an assignment or project.  Whenever possible, refer back to the meaning of the song - you want your students to feel like they're at home - like they're part of a caring family - when they're in your classroom.

Then, on the last day of school, as a way to say good-bye to your students, play for them Gone Gone Gone also by Phillip Phillips.  

Are you familiar with Gone Gone Gone?  It's a song about loving someone and always being there for them - exactly the message your students need to hear as they leave you.  Check out the lyrics below:

When life leaves you high and dry

I'll be at your door tonight

If you need help, if you need help.

I'll shut down the city lights,

I'll lie, cheat, I'll beg and bribe

To make you well, to make you well.

When enemies are at your door

I'll carry you away from war

If you need help, if you need help.

Your hope dangling by a string

I'll share in your suffering

To make you well, to make you well.

Give me reasons to believe

That you would do the same for me.

And I would do it for you, for you.

Baby, I'm not moving on

I'll love you long after you're gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I'll love you long after you're gone

And long after you're gone, gone, gone.

When you fall like a statue

I'm gon' be there to catch you

Put you on your feet, you on your feet.

And if your well is empty

Not a thing will prevent me.

Tell me what you need, what do you need?

I surrender honestly.

You've always done the same for me.

So I would do it for you, for you.

You're my back bone.

You're my cornerstone.

You're my crutch when my legs stop moving.

You're my head start.

You're my rugged heart.

You're the pulse that I've always needed.

Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.

Like a drum my heart never stops beating...

Isn't this what your students want from a teacher?  Don't they essentially want someone to be their "Mr. Feeny".  Remember Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World?  (Of course you do!) He was the teacher who always there for them.  The person Cory and Topanga could always go to no matter what the problem.  The person they knew loved them, who would do anything for them, and who cared about them as people instead of just as students.

So start Day 1 off with a bang.  Use Home by Phillip Phillips to get them excited about the culture you're going build for them.  Then, as the year ends, use Gone Gone Gone by Phillip Phillips to make sure there's no way they get away from you not knowing how much you care and that you will always be there.

Any thoughts?

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on July 13, 2014 at 4:42pm

Glad you liked it, Beth.

Have you checked out gobeyondthecontent.com?  I have tons of resources like this - videos, songs, books.  

I provide PD for schools and school systems on several topics, but my favorite is what I call Go Beyond the Content.  I work with teachers to find practical and meaningful ways to inspire kids in the classroom and to serve as a "compass" in their lives.  

When you go to gobeyondthecontent.com, be sure to check out to read The Case for Going Beyond the Content. Sounds like you're already doing it!

Let me know if I can ever help you out in any way.

Comment by Beth Blachman Decker on July 13, 2014 at 12:39pm

This is an awesome and welcome addition to the class I teach called Foundations for Freshmen. It saved me a ton of time looking for what I call good daily sparks. My class covers transitioning into high school and then we cover what they need to know (that the world assumes they know) about career choices, college options, finances and cost of living, but I weave it all around motivation and attitudes for success. Some of these will definitely be great, fun additions. I also use Paramore's song "Ain't it fun."

Thanks

Beth 

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