All that jazz

Recently, my brother and I were discussing education and at one point he implied that teaching English is more impactful than teaching music. He said, “you don’t have to know jazz to be a good person” meaning that an understanding of jazz isn’t a fundamental life skill–the way english is. And while my well rounded philosophies were dying to argue against his statement, I had to admit he had a point.

That’s not to say that music isn’t important or meaningful, just that not everyone will stick with it as they age. Additionally, music’s elective status even allows some people to avoid it all together. While English’s common core status and universality (essays, projects, job applications, interviews etc) means it follows you forever.

So when edutopia tweeted “What do jazz, literature, art and vulnerability have in common?”, I had to click the subsequent link. The article, Count Basie’s Blues: Literature, Art and Vulnerability, was  a teacher’s narrative about a student connecting with literature and jazz (and the emotional aspect of teaching). It was a good read. While it was mainly focussed on pathos, I found the answer to my question upon reading this quote:

“…my trick for engaging students was to give them the arts. I learned it from my principal, Ms. Mitchell, who encouraged us to take our kids out of poverty and into theaters and museums — and to bring that richness back into the classroom. It was, after all, a universal language that could touch and inspire.”

To me, an ideal class does more than stand on it’s own–it compliments the other subjects students are taking. One of the goals of eduction is to get students to draw connections: ultimately using their knowledge to develop an understanding of themselves and the world. In order for me to “bring richness into the classroom” I can’t be afraid to branch out into other subjects. So maybe my brother is right, maybe jazz doesn’t reach as many students as English does; but maybe I can change that. What I’ve realized is that all teachers have the ability to bridge the gaps between subjects and that the best way to make my students well rounded is to be well rounded myself.


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