Across the music therapy Twitterverse and blogosphere, everyone is talking about the starting school year.  Yes, the backpacks are filled, the binders are lined with fresh paper and the superhero lunch box has been packed with healthy goodies.  Students and teachers alike are all heading back to school within the next few weeks.  Everyone has positive attitudes and  bright hopes for the 2011 school year.

Even though I have been out of academia for two years now, there’s something about the end of summer that still makes me want to buy school supplies.  Who doesn’t love making the first notations with a perfect ballpoint pen in a new notebook?  It’s no surprise that I still associate this time of year with the impending school year.  After all, we spend a significant amount of our childhood and young adult lives within a classroom.

School is such a formative experience in young lives and this is clearly represented in music.  There are a surprising amount of songs that are about school and they range across the emotional spectrum.  From Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” to the repetitive childhood favorite “The Wheels on the Bus”, you can find songs celebrating or decrying the educational structure.  While I’ve been known to do an amazing (-ly loud) rendition of “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” when driving alone in my car, what strikes me most when I think about the correlation between school and music is what a fantastic teaching and binding tool it can be.

Out of all the classes I’ve sat through and all the lessons I’ve listened to (and taught!) the ones that stick with me most forcefully are the ones that were set to music.   And I can still name all 50 states in alphabetical order in about a minute, thanks to the Fifty Nifty Song.

With school so prevalent in kids lives, it can easily be a place for uncertainty, worry or even fear. What better way to maneuver these emotional minefields than with music?  It’s a non-threatening way to allow kids to express their emotions without asking them to directly reveal too much in front of their classmates.  There’s something safe about using existing art to express yourself and connect with others.

Of course, all of this is no surprise to music therapists.  Music therapists have been helping schools and teachers connect with students for years.  Have you ever taught in a school?  What are the tips that a new or experienced music therapist should hear before they ever walk into a classroom?

Thanks to stevendepolo and dynamosquito for use of their images!

~Laura, Guest Blogger

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