Last week the Rock Hall hosted its annual Summer Teacher Institute – an intensive workshop for educators where the Museum becomes the classroom and rock and roll becomes the teacher. This year we welcomed 50 teachers from 17 states and Canada to the house that rock built to learn how they can use popular music in their own curriculum. It’s an exciting time and one of my favorite weeks of the year. The energy is palpable and contagious.
I think what makes Summer Teacher Institute so exciting is the diversity of experience that each year’s participants brings. From kindergarten teachers to college professors, music teachers to science teachers, STI brings educators from all sides together to find ways to make learning come alive for their students through the power of rock and roll. This year, I met an English teacher from San Francisco interested in the poetry of rock lyrics (he took the red-eye flight just to get here in time!), a US History teacher from New Jersey preparing to teach his own high school rock history course this fall (he said it filled up in five minutes), and a group of teachers from Milwaukee curious to learn how to use popular music to teach financial literacy (our new course, Takin’ Care of Business: A Rock Band Finance Simulation, does just that). There were teachers new to the classroom and even a handful who recently retired (and everything in between). No matter where they stood in their own careers, everyone was passionate about what they do and they were equally enthusiastic about learning more.
This year we were joined by singer-songwriter Joe Grushecky, a special education teacher himself, who discussed his experiences on stage and in the classroom (and even performed a few songs). We also welcomed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Bobby Massey, founding member of the O’Jays, who discussed his own career and his outreach work in K-12 schools. Blues musician, Fernando Jones, the Roots of American Music Quartet, and students from School of Rock added inspiring live performances to the mix.
Teaching can be a difficult profession; the challenges are many. No matter where, or what, you teach, STI works to take these challenges head-on, giving educators resources and strategies to reach their students in powerful ways. Rock Hall educators work through our own curriculum models and teachers from across the country (most are STI alums) lead small-group breakout sessions so that participants can learn classroom-tested strategies from those who have seen success with their own students. Each day begins with our Rock 101 lecture series – a look at more than 80 years of rock and roll (from its roots to its branches). Once teachers build a solid foundation in rock history, they can begin to make their own classroom connections.
And the results can be powerful. I can’t to wait to see what this year’s teachers will do.
Congratulations to the STI Class of 2010! Rock on.