Colin and his mother came into school looking happy and half-humming, half-singing something very familiar. Their whole presence and attitude was atypical, because they behaved as if they were actually part of the song. I realized they were singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical “Oklahoma”.
Now, that was a surprise. Of all the music I introduce to young children from Beethoven and Vivaldi, to jazz, the Beatles, and everything in between, I haven’t introduced musicals, with the exception of “Mary Poppins”. When I was ten-years-old I was given two choices for my birthday party: a group of friends to the big amusement park, or one friend to “Oklahoma”. Fortunately I picked “Oklahoma”, and I have never looked back. It was my ‘golden door’ to good, live music. It was also my awakening to music that makes you feel, laugh, and cry. Fast forward twenty years, and I became a teacher. Those songs opened a big door in my heart, and that is what I share and do when I teach. It was only natural that I brought plenty of music into my classroom, as music is the soul of emotions, and therefore the foundation for children to develop goodness. It’s much like reading the best fiction, such as Charlotte’s Web. Both play a big role in positive character development.
When Colin and his mother came bounding into school singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” I joined in. Colin is a singer and loves every song he hears. As the day went on, we sang on the playground, in the hallway, and in the bathroom. Other children joined in, and by lunch time we had a party of singers. Singing is contagious!
Claire came to school wearing red, white, and blue after our Memorial Day Remembrance. I could tell she was bursting to tell us something. She was puffed out like a mama bird who had taught her babies how to fly. She stood tall in front of her classmates and sang, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. She was so proud! Of course we all wanted to sing along, and we did. That contagious, infectious element crept in, as it always does with music, and we spent most of the day singing parts of the song. Outside we marched as we sang, in the bathroom we made-up hand movements to the song. Whenever a child started to hum or sing part of the song, I picked up the ball and ran.
When children bring music into the classroom, it’s a golden opportunity to sing. A song from a child is a home run for a teacher, simply because the song and interest came from the child. It is a natural way to teach values and goodness, because children learn best in a hands-on, indirect way. Did I ask Colin if his song made him feel happy? Did I ask Claire if her song made her feel proud? Those questions were best answered by embracing the songs and acting upon them. Actions speak louder than words. This is emergent curriculum, and the learning that follows is the ‘stuff that sticks’. How do I know? Thirty years of children who return to visit recall what they remember and what made a difference. Often it is music and singing.
Sing, even if it is humming or phrases. Sing what filled your heart. And, if children come to you singing what fills their heart, that’s as good as it gets.