Stocking the Vending Machine

In the effort to maximize my own summer growth, I have targeted a few books that have been on the radar for a few months. These include:

Launch” – Spencer (@spencerideas) & Juliani (@ajjuliani)
Originals” – Grant (@AdamMGrant)
Innovators Mindset” – Couros (@gcouros)

I have followed each of these authors and their Twitter accounts for some time (yes, I use Twitter as my own PD vending machine). What intrigued me was the potential application of their perspectives to my own philosophical position and the connection to the students I interact with daily at my school. Their (my students’) relevant education was at stake and I needed to potentially shift my own paradigm to better engage with and for them.

I spent a little time exploring the beginnings of these books trying to determine the best order to read and reflect on them. I decided “Innovators Mindset” was my starting line (followed by “Originals”, then “Launch”…this order best suited me. I encourage you to reflect on your own perspective.) Right away, I was struck with a few powerful moments (especially when diving into the supplementary materials… TEDx talks, YouTube broadcast, etc). Most impactful was the “Think different” passage in Couros’ exploration of what “innovation” truly is:

“…many schools today have replaced unhealthy ‘junk’ food in their vending machines with healthier items. The thinking is that providing healthy snacks leaves students with no option but to make better food choices.”

Although it seems like a factual statement (and it is), I paused to reflect on what the potential “healthier items” are in my own classroom and how I have blatantly (or discretely) identified those to my students… In my ensemble classroom , is the Bb Major scale far healthier than the ii-V-I alternatives? Is the Vaughan Williams &/or Holst the “healthier item” compared to Taylor Swift &/or Steam Powered Giraff (@steam_giraff) they listened to outside of class?

Couros goes on to discuss that the intent of managing the vending machine was to eliminate choices so student weren’t aware or provided with options that weren’t healthy. Unfortunately, it has lead to a significant spike in overeating and indulgence in the options we don’t get daily. So, is limiting the options (or in the Music Ed classroom..the experience) going to isolate the options for “valuable” and “worthwhile music” experiences? Will students focus their YouTube searches on Beethoven? Would their Spotify channels build playlists on Sousa? Spoiler alert… NO!! So, what is the (or my) Music Education classroom supposed to do? How can I teach them what’s “healthy” when they don’t get it? And if I give them Kanye West, will they be able to determine “healthy”?

I am no nutritionist. I have never had a class on eating habits and what is “right vs wrong” (Other than the food pyramid…and let’s be honest, the GMOs vs Organic debate didn’t even exist back then)… How can I be the expert in healthy in my music classroom? But…how can I determine the best musical experience in order to gain music knowledge (skills) during the music education I am giving at students? It’s a lot of words, but what are the meanings?!?!

Bottom line, I needed to start listening TO students. I needed to better understand what their music “appetite” was so I can best design their diet for “healthy” eating. I need to know more about them as individuals and less about them as generalized members of a decades old model of music education consumers. When I listen, I grow. When I grow, I can teach/facilitate. Facilitation isn’t just a buzzword in education, but a verb. I know the concepts of music (phrasing, emotional expression, articulation, form, etc) and it is my opportunity (and responsibility) to connect for and with them.

My body doesn’t respond to “healthy” options the same way my friends’ do…neither is wrong, that is just our difference. I also don’t listen to the same music (and for the same reasons) as my peers. That’s not because I am more musically educated than they are. It’s because we both have our own “healthy” options in the vending machine of musical choices.

So #whatifmusiced valued these differences and got away from the school vending machine model of isolating the “healthy options”? What if we taught students from what they like and didn’t assume they were ignorant sponges for us to fill with “healthy options”? One perspective is shared from Clint Randles

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