Sunday, December 15, 2019

Christmas Wish List and Playlist for Educators and Schools

By Vicki Bechard, Secretary

When you see a kid with missing front teeth at this time of year, we immediately smile and begin to hear that familiar jingle playing in our head, All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth…” At no time do you think there is something horribly wrong with the child; their missing teeth are just a reflection of the growth process they are undergoing.  The song is a fun poke at the growing pains we all go through and gives one hope that in time, once those teeth come in, things will be just fine.  Speech will become clearer, the ability to whistle will return, and eating will be easier.  No Grinch will steal their joy. It will be so much easier to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, or whatever one is celebrating!)!

Music sparks our thinking and engages our emotional attachments.  We know from lots of research (here’s one source from Neuroscience News) and perhaps your own personal experience, that music is engaging and helps connect us on a deeper level.  As learners, the use or playing of music often is associated with better concentration, improved cognitive functions to create meaning, increased vocabulary and reading levels, all of which can lead to higher levels of achievement and better learning experiences.  If music can be helpful in the classroom to improve focus, meaningful connections, engagement, and overall success, why not use it in the school improvement processes we undertake?

As schools, educators, and students experience growing pains every year, we look for better ways to create a culture of learning, acceptance, and success. If we thought about every school’s Christmas wish list that would take them into the New Year, what might that look like?  Sometimes they might be looking for their “2 front teeth” – a natural part of their growth process, but other times it might be something that leads to a much bigger transformation.  To create a deeper commitment, how might we include music to touch the hearts of educators and engage their minds and work? To that end, I’m sharing my Christmas Wish List (and including a Playlist to support that list) for schools, educators and students this holiday season as they continue their improvement journey into the New Year: (disclaimer: there are MANY more songs that would work based on what you or your staff like to listen to!). 

1.       Purpose and Goals:  The Impossible Dream (The Quest) – This song speaks of the quest of goal seeking with purpose and perseverance.  When learners understand their purpose (WHY), set a goal (WHAT), and develop a plan to achieve that goal (HOW), the quest becomes their improvement journey. This quest will have detours and obstacles, but the determination to succeed will lead achieving that goal.  Climb Every Mountain (from Sound of Music as performed by Audra McDonald) – reinforces the idea that perseverance is required to achieve one’s goals even when mountains stand in your way.

2.       Believe/Efficacy:  This is Me (from The Greatest Show on Earth); Believe (Josh Groban from Polar Express). Both of these songs encourage the importance of believing in yourself and your abilities and by doing so, you will give wings to your dreams and fly.  When a group or team believes in a common goal, collective efficacy emerges and success typically follows.

3.       Collaboration & Teamwork: When We Stand Together (Nickelback) – We win when we stand together; work together; hand in hand; no one can divide us, no matter the obstacle.  While this song addresses more worldly issues, it also can be applied to the world within our schools. Collaboration and productive teaming focused on improving teaching and learning is a win for everyone! We know we are #BetterTogether and We Will Rock You! (Queen).  Consider attending the Learning Forward Kansas Annual Conference Feb. 2 & 3, 2020 in Wichita as Collective Efficacy with Jenni Donohoo will be the feature of our 2020 Vision on Collaboration and Leadership. Click here for more information or to register.

4.       Change and Growth: Everything Will Change (Gavin DeGraw) – If we are not changing and growing we are not improving.  Change happens or it needs to “before it gets too late.”  How do we do that? “Walk the talk.  Separate the men from the boys; women from the girls; tools from the toys.  Even if you’re freaking out, just relax.”  Find your purpose; take a risk; work together; persevere. Change means having to make adjustments to avoid remaining the same.  Even this funny throwback video from the Brady Bunch talks about when It’s Time to Change, it’s time to rearrange.

5.       Supportive Leadership:  Vision is a hallmark of leadership, but more importantly the cultivation of relationships, commitment of support, and willingness to stick with those whom they lead through the trials of implementation are critical to creating and maintaining a culture of learning. Leaders anchor staff and provide the glue as they work together to achieve the desired goals. We can see this theme of trust, connection, and dependable support in these songs: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel); I Won’t Let Go (Rascal Flatts); You’ll Never Walk Alone (from Carousel; Celtic Women version)

6.      Gratitude: Above all, be grateful for the leadership, staff, and community members who work tirelessly for the kids.  Be grateful for those kiddos who depend on your wisdom, caring, and guidance.  Look for the silver lining.  There is plenty of good and promise on which to focus our thoughts and actions. Louis Armstrong got it right when he encouraged us to just look around and appreciate What a Wonderful World we live in.

As the first semester comes to an end and you head into the winter break, may your heart continue to be touched and motivated to be the best you can be as educators so that your students can be their best too.  We at Learning Forward Kansas challenge you to come back after the holidays, refreshed, renewed, and recommitted to improving your instruction to impact student learning.  Let us know if we can help with that. Thank you for making a difference.  We know we are all #BetterTogether.

Happy Holidays from Learning Forward Kansas! 

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