One of my classes this semester is Introduction to Music Education. It is the first course that launches me into my declared major field of study (Music Education). The class requires twenty hours of music class observations of grades K through 12. I must observe a variety of course settings such as general music, band, orchestra, chorus, and so forth. So far I have been able to observe a couple of eighth and sixth grade classes at a middle school in Queens.
First of all let me say wow what a difference between sixth graders
and eighth graders!
Maybe not ‘wow’ in the way you may be thinking though. Let me explain…
The first day I was observing both grades, there was a guest speaker there to give a general music presentation to the students. The presenter was introducing the kids to the concept of music in relation to a theme, story, text, or idea. We tend to call this ‘Program Music’ here at the college level of study, but these young students were just getting their first taste of the concept of program music. Some movie themes were played for them as examples (Jaws, Star Wars, and Harry Potter) and then they were asked if the music was happy, sad, fast, slow, and how it made them feel. The eighth grade classes visibly enjoyed the music and presentation, but for the most part as a group these older kids were putting out a somewhat ‘too cool to be here’ attitude. Now here comes the part where I almost fell out of my chair from the surprisingly insightful comments the sixth grade class made! They were totally into it! Not only that, but the questions that these kids asked and answered were about subject matter that the older kids seemed to be oblivious to. So I am left to ponder… what happens in those two years difference in age that stupefies mankind?
The question buzzed around the back of my head for a few days as I focused on other pressing matters (like my own studies, the grocery list, and the price of a one month unlimited metro card). Eventually my mind came to rest on the difference between eleven year olds and thirteen year olds and it was as plain as the nose on my face. Hormones! Of course! These poor eighth graders couldn’t be bothered with such trivial matters of academics when there were more earth shattering matters at hand. Matters like what Roger said to Lee about Susan in gym class, or which brand of shoe was un cool to be seen wearing this week. These matters of gossip, and fashion which form an amorphous, gelatinous, and constantly changing set of rules of dress and conduct which must be strictly adhered to least one become a social pariah.
I laughed to myself as I remembered my own days in the eighth grade. How not ‘in’ I was because I didn’t wear Levi’s button fly 501’s, spiked jelled hair, white Reebok sneakers, a popped collar Polo shirt, and a Members Only jacket to finish the whole look.
That was back in the year 1986 for me.
Tell me, what was it important to be seen wearing when you were in the eighth grade?