I walked into Lisa’s (not her real name) Grade 4 class. I’d done an Artist Residency in her school the previous year, and her class had been a favourite. But from the moment I walked into her room this class felt different.
I wasn’t able to talk with her in the moment, but we ran into each other in the staffroom and I had the opportunity to ask her what was going on.
She told me a story every teacher reading this has probably heard…or lived!
Being an artist in education gives me a unique perspective. For one thing, I’m in schools all over Canada every year. City schools, country schools and a number of schools in remote Indigenous communities. I work in elementary, middle and high schools as well.
As an artist, I’m very aware of my surroundings…the people I’m with, the environment, the mood, the conversations I overhear. It’s part of what made me a good performer knowing how to read a crowd, picking up on the cues when I’ve got them in the palm of my hand and when I’m losing them.
A lot of teachers tell me their story, like their challenges are so unique no one anywhere could understand what they’re going through. But when I hear that in September in a school over here and then again in October in a school over there, and again in November on the other side of the country…well let’s just say, even I can recognize the threads that weave this tale together. Something is going on...and we're all part of it.
I’m writing this in 2024, and one of the most recurring threads in the stories I’ve heard over the last 3 years, has been the impact of the pandemic lock downs on the social and emotional development of students.
"My class is just so ‘mean’ to each other,” a Grade 6 teacher told me recently. When I asked the principal what was going on he said, “It’s the impact of the years of remote learning where students didn’t have the opportunity to be in a group setting. To learn how to get along. How to be patient, how to be kind. How to respect themselves and others.” Everywhere I go I hear some version of this story.
As an artist I know that I’m in a powerful place to do something about this situation. The Songs For Schools project that I just finished producing is the product of hundreds of conversations about these themes. Conversations I’ve had class by class, school by school across the country.
One school I went into the principal took me into her office and said, “look…we have a problem with bullying. The teachers are tired of it. The students are tired of it, but we’re still struggling with this. We’d really need this week with you to be something positive that can give us all a lift.”
The Power of Imaginative Songs & Actions
So I worked with the students to imagine what coming to school would feel like if they were encouraged. If it was a safe and supportive place to try new things. Over and over again someone in each classroom would exclaim, “I’d love coming to school if it was like that!” So we wrote ‘We Love Our School’ and used the song to cast a vision for the school everyone wanted.
Songs don’t immediately solve the problems of a school. But they can help students imagine new ways of being, acting, learning and feeling. And imagination is a natural state of mind for a child. When we were kids we could imagine sticks were swords, cardboard boxes were spaceships. A catchy song that makes you want to dance with your friends that has ACTIONS! Oh my goodness, that is a recipe for change if I’ve ever heard of one.
The Songs For Schools Media Library features,
The Story Behind the Song dials into our innate love of stories, no matter how old or young we are. In these videos I share where the song was written, what conversations led to different lyrics. Funny things that happened. These stories give greater insight into the songs themselves.
Lyric Videos & Production Quality: Sing Together & Sound Amazing
The lyric videos are the easiest and most convenient way for groups to sing together. The songs were professionally produced to sound the best when played on bluetooth speakers and smartboards in the classroom, because that’s where they will get the most airtime.
Ukulele Tutorials: Empower Students to Play
The tutorial videos, along with the lyric/chord charts make it super easy for students to learn to play these songs on the ukulele. Using the method used by most pop, rock and self taught musicians, even students who don’t know how to read music can learn to play.
Time Spent with Music = Building Character & Confidence
The time the students spend listening to the stories, singing and learning to play the songs is time they are spending meditating on the themes.
The LIVE bonus videos capture the excitement that is created when a school comes together to create something bigger and better than anyone could on their own.
One teacher who isn’t a musician themselves, said they are using the tutorial videos to learn how to play the songs at the same time as his students
I personally really loved hearing that, because modeling risk-taking in the process of learning something new is a powerful move for a teacher. Sharing the creative process with your students is a fantastic way to build trust and create a safe learning environment.
Lisa’s Success Story
But what about Lisa and her class? Well her class was in many ways the inspiration for this project. Because after I left her school I sent her and her class a couple videos where I talked about a song and then sang it for them. Nothing professional. Just recorded on my phone. A month went by, and then she wrote and told me that the stories I shared and the songs I sang had a huge impact on the students. It started a group conversation about the type of class they wanted to have. Everyone submitted an idea of what would make their class better, and they created a class motto of those values and hung it on the wall in their classroom.
But the change started with stories and songs that helped students see that things could change…that THEY could change.
Feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive with innovative uses of the material. Some teachers,
Created by Artists FOR Educators - Understanding the Challenges Teachers Face
Songs For Schools was created by an artist FOR educators. I spend most of my time in schools. I see how hard it is day after day, year after year. I produced these resources to,
World-Class Quality: Professional Productions & Inspirational Message
These songs and videos were,
Try it FREE & Enjoy a 50% Off Launch Offer
You can try a sample of songs and videos, as well as lyric/chord charts for FREE at https://rikleaf.com
And in case all of this still doesn’t put your mind at ease, I offer you a 30 day money back guarantee. If you’re not 100% satisfied, just write me an email and I’ll refund your money. No questions asked.
(OK well I might ask why, but you don’t have to tell me…hahaha)
You have everything to gain and nothing to lose…what are you waiting for!
During the official launch you get,
I’m a professional Arts in Education specialist, songwriter, recording artist, music/video producer, published author, podcaster and poet laureate for Tribe of One, a national collective of Indigenous & settler musicians, dancers, painters & poets. You can find me online on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn or Tribe of One Facebook
A meme inspired my entire career...
"Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger"
And that's how I got here. 20 years into a career creating a safe and supportive space for students to step out of their comfort zone so they can experience the magic of finding their voice.
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