A Teaching Recipe

I was ten minutes early for the meeting with one of our district's new hires, a middle school music teacher. In my new hybrid role that included coaching/mentoring over seventy teachers in my district, I was visiting Mrs. Green, who had taught elsewhere previously but was still quite new to the profession. She was finishing a lesson with her young charges about rhythm. They each had a drum, which they held silently as my guide dog and I took a seat in the classroom.

"Now, imitate my rhythm," Mrs. Green stated in a voice that held a mesmerizing blend of authority and invitation. Then she spoke the rhythm that she wanted the students to pound out: "Peanut butter peanut butter peanut butter pie."

My eyes widened. Food? What's that doing in a music classroom?

I didn't have to wait long for the answer. The students, in incredible unison, pounded out the exact rhythm of the words Mrs. Green spoke. "DAH duh duh duh DAH duh duh duh DAH duh duh duh DAH." Not one stumble, not one overdone or underdone thump. Not one untamed giggle. It was superb!

I continued listening to Mrs. Green interact with the budding young musicians. She asked, affirmed, redirected, supported, celebrated, and calmly expected and received excellence from her students.

When the bell rang sooner than they expected, she reminded the students of how to put the drums back in the right place and how to replace chairs in their proper position. No one scrambled, screamed, or slipped away without doing what was required. Once order was restored, they left.

When I asked Mrs. Green how she managed such smooth operation of the class and such vivid success of the drumming on just the fourth day of school, she said something like this: "How could I not expect these results, when the students are capable and when I know and they know that I will guide them."

Indeed, how can we not expect the best, when we couple student potential with what we know we can do for students? It is a recipe as simple as peanut butter peanut butter peanut butter pie.