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Reconciling #musicalpoetry, #spanish learning, #CI, and #culture


I’m a music teacher. I’m a Spanish teacher. I am a both. I am a Native speaker. How do I reconcile both in my classroom? These were my thoughts throughout #CIIA2018 this month, especially when Laurie Clarcq was speaking in her breakout sessions.

As a Spanish teacher, I constantly use music in my room. Mainly in a indirect way for my non-native & non-heritage students (if you are ACTFL fan they are Novice to Novice-low, rarely a Novice-Mid as a Second Language learner because of contact hours). I mostly use my Spotify playlist “Songs in Spanish” to keep playing in the background. All. The. Time.

When I have commented to my coworkers about this during the school year (mainly a music teacher) I told them that it grounds me. It keeps me connected to music, but there IS a method in my madness.

The madness

My first 2 years as a Middle School, MYP teacher in an International Baccalaureate school, I have 35+ students. Every class period. Yes, that means that in 2 days (we’re in an A/B schedule) I teach a max of 400 students. In my classroom, I have free seating & “you have a phone, ok. Use it to your advantage.” Policy. Meaning, that if a student has a phone, I do not go “phone-Nazi” and take them away. I purposely teach focus. I did not realize that I did this, until our technology teacher told me that she did the same thing. I want to teach focus. Intentional focus. This is hard at the middle school brain.

I start the school year telling all my students that I am a music teacher, I conduct choirs, I sing in choirs, and that I conducted choirs in Puerto Rico, my home country. They are always “shook” and as one student told me this year “show me the receipts Brenda, or it didn’t happen”. I show them the “receipts” and they’re impressed (to say the least). Honestly, that was the point of “the art of musical poetry” when this blog began: how does music, language and culture works. As a Spanish teacher, while the core is still there, it’s been tweaked as I teach Spanish.

How do I use the madness to my advantage

Using my Spotify playlist, I put on music that I will teach during their 3 years in the program, music that is fun/different, music that my students (mainly my native speakers) choose to share to the “gringo students”.

It opens up conversation that yes, in Spanish-land you have as many musical genres as they listen to in English. From Taylor Swift-like pop, to hard metal, to Spanish covers of their “omg this song gives me life” favorite songs.

While it takes them some time (mainly new students and incoming 6th graders) to adjust, they LIKE the culture in the classroom. They KNOW that if they don’t have music playing something DIFFERENT is going to happen in the room. Students BEGIN to WITHOUT prompt sing the songs in Spanish, learn their favorite songs in a Spanish cover, and even better? ASK for SPECIFIC songs. This year Corazón sin Cara, Andas en mi cabeza, and La Gozadera were huge hits.

WHY?

We go back to the Why? Why would I do this? I do know that most teachers would think I am crazy for doing this. Well… I might be. But it goes back to who I am, what I do, and what I want my students to achieve and feel successful. In 3 years, in an A/B schedule, my students will NOT be awesome superstars with their output. I know that. I’ve accepted that. Now, this year’s 6th graders (next year’s 7th graders) might make me reject that reality. If so, #ChallengeAccepted.

In my room, silence needs to be important. Just like music. It has to have MEANING. It reminds me of what Laurie Clarcq said at CIIA (I’m paraphrasing)

The Teacher is the conductor of the orchestra. They know (or should know) the music, the theory, and each student must bring their “instrument” or kill so that they can continue to improve.

But let’s be real, most of the students do not have some skills, what ever skill you’re looking for (reading, writing, social-emotional, etc) so we have to address it and teach it.

How do I teach it

1. Student’s who are notoriously late: Conversations.

As of this year, students have a grade that directly ties their attendance. It’s a small rehearsed conversation: Hola Maestro. Me llamo ____. Como estas? Now while it was surprisingly spanish (Sam Finneseth) who started this year, I followed suit and it gave me a lot of rewards. Students who are shy and are more receptors rather than “sayers” they have at least 1:1 interaction with me. Most importantly it teaches students that they need to be on time, is simple and parents are supportive.

2. It can be used as a warm up.

3. I use it to actually remember students and their names. (I am horrible with names)

4. Students with phones: Teach self-control

I am a phone-a-holic. I am. I let my students know this. I even check my phone (sometimes) while they are working. It’s part of life and these kids never lived in a time where people have smartphone (and I feel old about that). So I have to teach them, just like a part of the orchestra, they do not need it at the moment. IF you are grabbing the phone its to check time, listen to your OWN music when SPANISH music is not plating (which is almost never), using Quizlet in class (when we need to), etc.

5. What to do with silence

If we have silence in the room, we are using it when we play mafia (listen to be understood. Listen to comprehended), when we are reflecting on our process, when I am talking about our CFA’s, Scales, and/or “big things” like real-life connections of culture and what we are reading, etc.

Would love to hear from you, what are some things that some peers think is “unorthodox”, “crazy or mad ideas” or simply how do you mix music, culture in your classroom that might be out of the norm?

Silage


Wandering through the foggy woodland
breathing the musty sods
twilight is upon us
skulking through murky, moldy dunes

A bridge is upon us,
filled by webs and fueled by decay
creakingly pivoting,
summoned by the dark, looming loch

Walking through the unstable path,
fixed upon the scrutiny of the unknown
-the fae beckons-
as you slowly gather up the storm

Walk, and walk you must
through the darkness you shall pass
until the shire comes at last
until your truth unfolds
until the embers dim to you

 

A flurry of wind…


Collapse the mirrors of your soul
walk through the valley and inhale…

Recite the numbers in your head
walk through the pastures, but wait…

Cliffs of Varengeville - Claude Monet

Cliffs of Varengeville – Claude Monet

A wind flurry is stirring ahead
feel nature at its best
recite the numbers out loud
– one, two, three-     I’ve found
a gust of wind caressing my skin
as the valley closes and I, breath

At the edge you’ll find
tension rising
catharsis releasing
wind billowing, stirring, and whirling

If you step off,
the wind will embrace you,
inhibitions will falter and
peace remains

-MP

For future Remembrance


The wind, as time, does not pause
nor the sky
or the stars

As summer falls to autumn
you travel
through chapters,
through life

For future remembrance
think not of what challenges come your way,
in the pebbles in your path
in the troubles of the past

but

Think of the victories, and
ponder on the possibilities
the gamble of your play
contemplate on the adventures, and
lessons that’ll come your way

Anticipate the success,
the possible loss
the love
the heartbreak

Child,
For future remembrance
anticipate… life

A classic poem takes a new (musical) flight


A dear friend of mine, who shall remain in anonymity, once showed me e.e. cummings’ i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart). As clichéd as it sounds, I loved it. In the course of this past semester, I enrolled in a composition class. In this class put my big boy pants, and I set this poem to music. It was an uphill battle (choosing the singers, rehearsal time) in short, a battle. I won the battle and the war! Here is the finished product, while not perfect, it is pretty darn close. I hope this a start of a new, complementary chapter in my life.

If you want to commission me for a choral piece, do not hesitate in doing so! Without further ado, i carry your heart with me (i carry it my heart).

Text:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Singers:

Sopranos:

Alison Huntley
Lydia Lewis
Mariah Chapdelaine
Elizabeth Peregrine

Altos:

Carolee Stark
Abiagil Landau
Jessica Moore
Jazmine Hamilton

Tenors:

Tyler Hast
Thomas Heise
Arturo Martinez
Eric Mohlis

Basses:

Johnnie Campbell
Ethan Q. Ivey
Jordan DePatis
Jack Dessent

José Clavell, conductor

Believe, I shall…


I believe in the sun, and the warm it exudes. 
I believe in the moon, the stars, and space. 
In the sound of the wind against my face. 
The chill of winter on a morning’s breath 

I believe in the heart, emotions palpitating…
In the sea and its temperament
I believe in starting clean, and the opportunities it can bring.
In children’s smile on Christmas day

I believe in the fall, the grace in nature’s death

Flamboyán leaves

Flamboyán Leaves


I believe in the spring, the phoenix’s birth 
In the meadow, the forest, 
the burning heats of men…

I believe in the cloud terrain after the kiss of rain
the shadows if a flamboyan tree under it’s rest
I believe in the torments that life brings 
in the act of weeping, the mourning of a death

I believe in the sun, and the warm it exudes
I believe in the crater of the moon, 
in the rouge meteors that scar the sky
I believe in the frigid winter winds against my skin
freezing my bones, and frosting my soul

But most importantly
I believe in you… 

 

Author’s Notes: Here you have my first poem of 2014. I was inspired by the Composer Ola Gjeilo’s “Across the vast eternal Sky”. Something I have learned about life in the last couple of months is that we should never stop believing… I hope you enjoy. Happy New Year! 

-Musical Poetry 

Looming skies


Billowing masses exude
crack, ripple, deluge
light razes
gale grazes
Calm…

Trees creak,
dancing leaves
rain drizzles
…just stand still

Rivers


Trickle down my spine
Show me who you are
Walk through the path and
Light up my world tonight

Arpeggios percolate through the air
shimmering, twinkling, and larking
a simple melody beckons and
casts back my soul

My face glimmers
snow cascades
turn back
and smile away…

Petrichor


Let it freePetrichor Road
Let it fall
break the drought
take the path

Grasp the soil
make it sing
create diamond
with silver  winds

 

linger


Leaves may fall
Winds may change
luster fades
but one thing is certain
one thing is true
three words are constant…
they will never change

And so it continues
one day after another
one foot after the other
grays softly get technicolor
but they won’t sparkle again
not like your smile
not as the sun that opens in your eyes

So what becomes of me?
just be at a standstill
waiting for that day
the day you return
I will wait for you, child
I will wait for the day our world becomes one
I will linger

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