Sunday, July 31, 2011

Using Music In Health Class, Part One: Rise Against's "Make It Stop"

Part One in a series detailing how I am using (or plan on using) music in my middle school health education classroom.

Music is a powerful force that many teenagers can find connections with. Music is a large part of their lives, and teenagers are constantly plugged into their iPods or on YouTube, listening away; music can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people. It also has the ability to influence us, in ways positive and negative.

Last school year, I experimented with a part homework, part classwork activity that involved analyzing song lyrics relating to sexuality. The eighth grade students I completed this assignment with really enjoyed it; it was not difficult for them to find songs dealing with sexuality related topics or issues: love, breaking up, cheating, stereotypes, sexual violence, sexuality, gender issues, sexism, body image, etc. Songs came from many genres, some were parodies and some were serious. The details about this assignment are not to point of this post, but rather to highlight one band's song that is tackling a big issue facing American teenagers.

DISCLAIMER: I wouldn't call myself a "fan" fan of Rise Against, but I do enjoy a lot of their music. I used to listen to "Broken English" in college during my warm-up runs before races. I am in no way affiliated with them, just trying to spread the word about a positive thing: choosing to speak up about an issue many are ignoring.

Earlier this summer, the punk rock band Rise Against released a new song and music video that takes a stand against homophobia, and the song is also part of the nationally known It Gets Better campaign. The song is entitled, "Make It Stop (September's Children)" and was written during the influx of gay and gay-perceived teenagers committing suicide in September of 2010. Rise Against has always been into activism of any sort (they've been known to tackle political issues in their songs), and in that way, this song is no different from many of their other songs. MTV interviewed frontman Tyler McIlrath earlier this summer, and the video is meant to showcase Tyler's frustrations that so many teenagers across the country, from all sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, etc. don't feel accepted at school.

I'm not entirely sure how I would use this in my classroom, but I do know that in order for students to fully understand with what they're learning, they have to be able to make a connection with it. This music video may be one such avenue with which to do so; as I mentioned before, music plays a large part in the lives of many teenagers. Whether the goal of music is to entertain or serve as a form of social protest doesn't matter, it can still help change the way people act. This video easily fits into numerous health topics. Hopefully, more bands, singers, performers, actors, athletes, and others who serve as role models for teenagers will begin to address issues like Rise Against has. As a teacher, it is part of my job to bring awareness to these issues, to begin those types of conversations, and to provide opportunities for tolerance within my classroom, hopefully extending out into the world.

The video is embedded below. Please be aware that some people may find it fairly intense. Be sure to check out the It Gets Better Project, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Long Time No Post!

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, and I'm going to get back into the routine over the summer. People have been asking me if I would get back into the blogging routine, so here I am! The end of the school year was very busy (no surprise there!) and as the summer begins, there's a lot of housekeeping items I want to work on in relation to my classroom for next year. Despite my lapse in posting, I'm still getting hits everyday from search engines, so I know people out there are looking for answers! I'm committing myself to frequent posting, during the summer and during the school year.

In no particular order, here is a list of what I hope to contribute over the next few weeks:
  1. Repost an updated version of the HIV Transmission Simulation. A friend of mine was looking for this one day and reminded me I need to re-post! I didn't create the lesson, but I have modified it based on my own experiences.
  2. Tobacco UDL Packet. A series of take-home assignments that try to incorporate as many UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles as possible. I didn't get to use these this year, but they were created so the students could so some exploring on their own, as homework.
  3. Sexuality Resources: I have nine resources in nine separate posts; all in varying states of drafting. I'm going to combine them into a post (or two...or three!).
  4. A bullying resource with video clips, lesson plans, information for parents, etc. that I've used
  5. Classroom management: some things I've picked up in my first three years.
  6. A series of activators, to be used at the start of units
  7. "Music and Health Education"
  8. Resources for skills based health education
  9. New music video by Rise Against that focuses on the issues of LGBT bullying
  10. Brain based learning. I'm taking an online course in brain based learning this summer, and if I learn anything I'd like to share, I will!
One of my good friends from undergrad was just hired to teach middle school health, too. She asked for some help and she and I will be e-mailing back and forth all summer. I am sure that those e-mails will give me a lot of material to post with. This will tie in with what I presented about at MAHPERD last November, too; the topic was "Survival Skills for The First Year Health Education Teacher."

The fall will be busy as I've picked up a head coaching job and will also be taking a graduate course. Despite this, I hope to add some VIDEO to the blog. Yes, video! Nothing too crazy, but something to spice things up a little. I may start to add actual research data/articles to some of my posts to back myself up...but we'll see about that. :) I'm hoping to work on a classroom website, which is something I started last year but never got off the ground. With our district shifting to Google apps (which I already love) this could be easier. And yes, I will be relaxing this summer. :) Between my summer job and other things, I still have plenty of time to relax!

I enjoy putting information out there for others to use, and when someone contacts me with questions or to say they've learned something from my blog, then I know there's a reason to keep rolling with this. Ultimately, it's also a tool for myself to grow professionally. I enjoy doing this, and hope you enjoy it, too!
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