Last month I blogged about Music and Identity and asked you to stay tuned because my students and I were on a mission to dig a little deeper into the power of song. Well, this month, we did just that. In my last blog, I was really excited to have the opportunity to be interviewed by Noa Daniel for the Personal Playlist Podcast and wondered how I might do something similar in my classroom with students as we were in the process of better understanding identity and the characteristics that shape who we are.

On a bright and sunny – well…maybe it really wasn’t bright or sunny – Monday morning, I shared my own Personal Playlist Podcast with students and asked them to consider their own three songs that would be considered notstalic, descriptive of their identity, and a pick me up. What made that morning bright and sunny was how eager students were to jump into it and find songs that resonated with them based on the 3 categories. As students spoke with one another, listened to song choices and read lyrics, there was a buzz in the room and it amazed me because while I know the power of music, it was evident right in that moment that students were really coming alive and energized to share about parts of themselves through song.

From songs like Brave by Sara Bareilles to This Is Me by Kesha, students were pulling out and sharing lyrics that were meaningful to them. It sparked conversations from some of my most introverted students about how they were feeling and what they were experiencing. In Brave, one student mentioned liking these lyrics:

“Innocence, your history of silence

Won’t do you any good

Did you think it would?

Let your words be anything but empty

Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

She stated that everyone should consider the power of their words, not only to bring others down but to be able to bring about change and to really stand up for who you are. This was the starting point for a discussion on when we hear something or see something that isn’t right, we should say something and not only that, make sure that you are living the words that you are speaking. It was very powerful and resonated with these lyrics from This Is Me:

“I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me”

The student who shared this song mentioned wanting to be brave although it is sometimes difficult because we are bruised by the words and actions of others. We spoke about marching to beat of our own drums and how it is sometimes hard because it isn’t always accepted or embraced by others. We spoke about the challenges that exist when we want to be seen and yet we are so afraid to stand out. How do we become those who make no apologies for who we are?

As if that wasn’t powerful enough, the sharing grew even deeper when our Co-op student shared her playlist which included a song that wasn’t in English. I assumed that it went without saying that students could choose songs in a different language but because I wasn’t explicit, students stuck to songs they knew in English. When she shared her choices, the room erupted with, “Well, I know this song that my mom used to play to me when I was younger. Listen to this…”. All of a sudden, students were sharing about themselves, their families and their histories through songs from different cultures and languages. Whether or not their peers understood the lyrics to the song, they understood the meaning behind it through the help of their peer. All of a sudden, it was connecting on a deeper level. Music really transcends all boundaries.

A few minutes before the bell rang for recess an announcement came on to say that it was an indoor recess due to the rain. There was no groan this time and students were eager to continue on sharing their Personal Playlist.

I have to thank Noa Daniel for the experience and connecting me back to music in a deeper way and ultimately allowing for my students to share their experiences through music. We’re in the process of writing a musical for tdsbCREATES on identity and our time spent examining our own song choices are really guiding us as we start to write our own lyrics to the songs in our musical.


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