I have to be honest, I loved the 80s and 90s for music and still do. Much of what I hear as today's music, I'm more than happy to leave to the teenagers of today. The only rules I have in my classroom is that I shouldn't be able to hear the music and that students must be able to hear me when I need to talk to them. Beyond these two rules, that's it. I trust my students until proven otherwise and that is very rarely, if ever. The other advantage I have is with my students is as we're full GAFE, I can check immediately if they're on track, listening to music or otherwise.
One of the great benefits of students listening to music is that it removes the silent classroom that gives many of the us noisy types the chills! I often get complaints from my fellow senior managers about the music playing from my office radio. I can't work in silence, tried but just can't. Maybe this is why I hate exams, now if I could just listen to some sounds..... Silence to me is so unnatural. As I write this blog article, the radio station Mix 98FM is blaring out the classics from the 80s. Often students don't bother with off-task chatter as they are too focused on doing their work and listening to sounds. Needless to say, headphones are mandatory. For the benefit of us all, their music is their music and that's all I'm prepared to say.
What I find really interesting about the music in my Year 11 English classroom is how diverse the range is. I know in other classrooms around the world many teachers have one song playing from one stereo but in a subject like English, I'd argue that if students weren't able to listen to their music, they wouldn't have their ownership. Way before I ever allowed music in the classroom, the vast majority of Art classes had sounds in play yet whenever I visited, the students were not only on-task but producing high quality work and consistently so. The allowance of music hopefully gives my students a sense of home in the classroom and as a result, a greater desire to be engaged and empowered in themselves and in their learning.
I also find it fascinating how the students share their music and simultaneously their learning. A number of students share a pair of headphones and are quite willing to listen to one another's music and not hesitate to give at times, fairly robust criticism. This really interests me and without knowing, they are evolving their own independent critical voice. It's therefore no surprise that when we analyse songs or film scenes, they rarely struggle with the deconstruction of the aural elements. I think this sharing and embracing mentality is also why our #VIP sessions are so successful. Each week, a different student-nominated is danced to by the whole class for one minute. Many of my students have commented on how much they enjoy this time of our week and that they feel their opinion is also valued at the same time.
In closing, I have gone from a very big sceptic of music in learning spaces to an absolutely advocate. As soon as I've finished this article, I'm getting ready to run my weekly twitter chat #digitaledchat and the music will still play on! If it didn't I would struggle to concentrate on my moderating... strange I know but increasingly true. If you're a doubter like I was, give it a go...little by little, one song at a time. Just make sure if there's no headphones, make sure the music is teacher's choice!