Friday, September 23, 2005

Teaching and Music

I am tremendously hard on myself as a teacher. If the lecture doesn't go to perfection, if I lead a discussion and talk too much or don't figure out good ways to turn the students off of tangents, of if I have a brainlock during class and forget what I am saying, which happens to me not infrequently, I get very angry at myself. Last night, I saw a student sleeping in the back. For some reason, I always internalize this as my fault, even though the kid didn't even have a notepad out and was probably only there because I had a short response paper due. It didn't help that I organized my lecture poorly which I doubt the students noticed but I sure did.

Well, in response I'm trying to think of how I can change up the lectures in order to hold students interests more. I'm talking about the 1920s on Tuesday so that should be pretty easy. I was thinking of showing part of a silent movie, as much because they should be exposed to the glories of silents as anything, and also using some music. I wanted to play maybe some Edgar Varese to give them an idea of how WWI affected art in the western world--I might read some of the stream of consciousness passages from Dos Passos' USA while it's playing. I am also going to use Dick Justice's "Cocaine", a song that has the greatest chorus line in the world, "I'm simply wild about my good cocaine", in order to show both the wildness of the 1920s and the ways that local folk music began to receive larger audiences during this time.

It could be fun, but I have to say that I've had mixed success using music before. I find it hard to get students to get past listening to the song and into analyzing it. So I end up talking about it more than I want to. I don't know if there's anyway around this, but if anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them.