Thursday, November 01, 2018

41 Kids in Half a Room

I'm on a quest to make the least commercial music on earth, so I'm writing songs about my work as a teacher. My latest tune is called 41 Kids and you can listen to it here. I've taught classes of 50 or more several times. In fact, when I first arrived at Francis Lewis High School, one of my classes was at 53. We had a coordinator who told me she would get me materials. She didn't, and blamed a paraprofessional for not copying them. Fortunately, I didn't know or trust her, so I brought my own.

I taught music for one semester at John F. Kennedy High School. It was my second semester of teaching. I was sent there by a secretary who was going to send me somewhere else. At the time, I'd heard Kennedy was better. She decided to be nice and sent me there at my request. But when I got there, they didn't need an English teacher.

"What can you teach?" asked the APO.

Social studies?" I figured it was mostly words, and if I read ahead of the kids I'd be okay.

"No we don't need a social studies teacher. Anything else?"

"How about music?" I asked.

"Yes we need a music teacher," he said. "Go down to the first floor and talk to the AP."

I remember this AP. He was very different from the one I'd just had, who was so uptight I thought if anyone touched her she would break. He gave me a stern lecture about how I was not to mess with the schoolgirls. I wondered if that had anything to do with the opening.

I gave him my best promise that I wouldn't mess with the schoolgirls.

"OK then," he said. "Fake it till you make it."

I proceeded to do just that. He gave me two guitar classes and three music survey classes. The music survey classes were pretty tough. That was because there were 50 kids in a class, and in fact there still are. In our school, admin has simply done away with them. That's because this was where you'd get stuck to pick up a music credit if you weren't really interested in music.

I taught a lot about jazz, which made my class different from that of the other person teaching it. She taught all about classical music. While I don't think any of the students liked any of the classes, I got word that they hated my class less than they hated hers. I was honored, of course.

No one should teach teenagers in classes of 50, anywhere. Actually, 34 is pushing it pretty hard. I've lived through every part of this song, though not at the same time. Once again, it's right here.
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