I’ve been watching a lot of spy TV lately, and I cringe every time someone is tied up in a cold, dark basement, facing certain torture. Water board, teeth removed, electric shock, anything imaginable to make the informant talk.
I think they should add fourth graders with instruments to their repertoire of torture tactics. Can you imagine the agony to your aural faculties?
It takes a strong and sturdy person to teach elementary music, one with nerves of steel and ear drums to match. Lesley Jakovcic is such a person.
Outside her music classroom at Reese Road Leadership Academy she has posted her personal mission statement, “To use my quirky creativity and sense of adventure for a more colorful life, encouraging my students to run head first down the path to achieving their wildest dreams.” All of that, she does.
And here’s how she does it.
She hands a bunch of fourth graders plastic clarinet-like instruments and says, “Just play.” And they all dance around tooting their different melodies, creating what each thinks is a masterful symphony.
She gives each of her second graders a passport and a plane ticket, boards them on a make-shift airplane, and flies them all around the world. Once they land, she teaches them the music of countries beyond their imaginations.
Mrs. Jakovcic offers her students the opportunity to be a little silly, act a little crazy and create a little music. Her goal is to offer the students an hour’s worth of solace from whatever challenges they may be facing outside her classroom. While her students are in music class, they are able to sing and dance and be a child. Finding small miracles every day is what keeps Mrs. Jakovcic energized. And the results are heart-warming.
One of her most challenging students is a young boy with a reputation of speaking with his fists. His misbehavior has resulted in suspensions, and his vocabulary would make a sailor blush. Every day he comes into music class with the same defiant anger, but Mrs. Jakovcic is relentless.
This particular day, she offered the young man an instrument, which he accepted. The class was asked to create an original musical pattern, and Mrs. Jakovcic turned them loose to create. The young man participated, which could be considered the small miracle of our fearless music teacher’s day. But that’s not the miraculous part.
After a time of sharing each masterpiece, followed by a quick vote on the best musical pattern, our young boy’s creation won the accolades of his peers and was chosen as the pattern the entire class would learn to play. So, Mrs. Jakovcic asked the young man to teach his musical artistry to the class. With a noticeable new-found sense of pride, the boy eloquently instructed his peers and even meandered around the room to help those who struggled perfecting the pattern. The end result was a symphony of success and satisfaction for the young man, and Mrs. Jakovcic’s payback was a powerful hug as he left her classroom.
An elementary school music room is a scary place for this high school teacher. I can’t imagine the noisy chaos. But it’s all about perspective. For Mrs. Jakovcic and the many other elementary music teachers across the District, they don’t hear noise at all. They hear the next Mozart – or a little guy who just wants to be heard.