I believe in Aretha Franklin. I guess I should say that I believe in Otis Redding, since he wrote the song, but it’s Aretha’s amazing golden tones that I hear, reminding us all of those 7 powerful letters – you know them — R E S P E C T.
On the first day of school each year, I strive to set the tone I wish to continue throughout the year in my music classroom. I created a poster that talks about respect, and the importance of having respect in our relationships with others, with me as the teacher, for our working environment, the subject that I teach, and most of all, for ourselves. The students and I spend the better part of a class period reading and discussing the poster, and giving examples of what respect looks and sounds like in my room.
Then I put Aretha on the CD player, and we dance.
Respectfulness seems to be in short supply in our society at this, the first decade of the 21st century. Our angry voices and manners appear to have increased with the number of decibels available for use on our car stereos. Anger, frustration and pain are enacted everyday in my condominium complex, on the roads that I drive, in the grocery store, the park, and at my school. Respect for other people seems to have eroded like our ever-growing-thinner skins. Perceived faults or grievances are met by “you did it to me, and I’m going to do it back to you.” I’m not really surprised to find this in my elementary students, but I’m surprised at the number of adults who automatically take the victim’s role, and encourage their children to do the same.
I enjoy doing movement in my classroom. Besides being an integral part of music education, it’s a great deal of fun. A few years ago, however, one class was having a tough time of it. Every time we did a movement activity, someone would step on someone else’s foot, or move an arm into her neighbor’s face, and an argument would ensue. So one day, their classroom teacher and I improvised a short scene in which we first ran into each other, and got angry. The students’ eyes got big at first, and then laughed as she and I started yelling at each other over a simple bump of our shoulders. They could see how such behavior was ridiculous. Next we bumped again, and apologized for the mistake and moved on. Lesson learned.
That’s part of what it means to be human. To err. To make mistakes. To bump into other people, and affect their lives in ways you would never imagine.
Sometimes I wish I could get the citizens of the world into my classroom, to read my poster, and discuss respect. I wish we could all discuss what it means to be respectful to each other, to our environment, and most of all to ourselves. We could give examples, do a couple of practice scenes, show what it looks like and sounds like.
Then I’d put Aretha on the CD player, and we would dance.
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