Secrets of Successful Teachers and Parents, Part 2

In Part One we learned about seven different intelligences and the particular secret to teaching each one:

Suzie’s Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence

Monica’s Naturalistic Intelligence

Janet’s Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence

Matthew’s Logical-Mathematic Intelligence

Adriana’s Intra-Personal Intelligence

Marilyn’s Inter-Personal Intelligence

Cesar’s Musical Intelligence

We learned that music is brain exercise and as such, literally transforms the brain much as physical exercise transforms the body. It makes it stronger, more agile, and more equipped to withstand pressure.

As a result of technology, we now have the ability to see the brain while it is in the process of thinking! We can observe, for example, that when people listen to melodies with a variety of pitch and timbre, the righthemisphere of the brain is activated. It also “lights up” when people play or sing music by ear.

However, when people learn to read music, understand key signatures, notation, and other details of scores, and are able to follow the sequence of notes, then the left hemisphere “lights up.” Significantly, it is activated in the same area that is involved in analytical and mathematical thinking!

The limbic system in our brain is so powerful that it can literally facilitate or inhibit learning and higher order thinking. Positive emotions, such as love, tenderness, and humor, can facilitate higher order thinking skills; whereas negative emotions, such as anger, hostility, and fear, can literally downshift the brain to “basic survival thinking”.

Dr. Marian Diamond, Berkeley neurophysiologist, offers information that the brain changes physiologically in relation to learning and experience — for better or worse. I have observed how differently children respond to my emotions. It is because of this knowledge that I always use humor, play-acting, pantomimes, and sometimes even “silly” behavior with my younger students. Once they see me taking the risk of acting silly, their reticence fades. This is especially beneficial in the bilingual Kindergarten and First Grade Classes.

My goal for my students is always performance! Students will go to considerable effort with little immediate reward if they know they will be held accountable, through ultimate performance, for what they have learned. They also know they’re accountable to the rest of the group. They develop both independence and collaboration. And their self-perception soars when they’re part of something bigger than they are! Music is a thinking activity of the highest level, and if it is taught with enormous passion and enthusiasm, it will spark a student towards high achievement for life!

There is nothing like showing 4th, 5th, and 6th Graders how to compose their own music! It empowers them at a time in their life when they are feeling powerless. They’re neither children nor adults, and they have not yet figured out what they are. Teach them to channel their “angst” into music and lyrics they can then share with the other students, and they now have a powerful, effective tool for communication. (One of the funniest musical numbers was written and performed by two 5th grade boys. One sang the love song while the other provided rhythm with burping! It wasn’t bad!)

The 4th – 6th Graders know, from the beginning of the year, they are preparing for a huge concert with the High School Choirs. This excited fear (adrenaline) keeps them motivated, even through the rough spots. Every class, including all the Kindergarten Classes, knows they are “in training” for a performance. It’s the only way to teach!

Working with students on a long-term basis provides them with the opportunity to experience processes from beginning to end. Music becomes its own reward!

I come from a long line of teachers, and it’s gratifying to know I’m making a huge difference in these kids’ lives! I had a special teacher in the 8th grade that changed my self-perception from negative to positive. She was not blind to my faults, but chose, instead to “accentuate the positive.” I remember Margaret Oliphant every day of my life. She was the teacher who loved me.

(c) 2009 April Lorier