Bringing back my calluses

My guitarI have this idea. What if we put a guitar in every classroom? How about a piano? Maybe some drum machines. We’re always sitting around talking about BYOD this and 1:1 that. Why don’t we think outside the glowing screen for a moment or two? I used to use my guitar all the time early in my career, but I realized recently that I’d drifted away from it. Did I get crusty and rigid in my old age?

So I brought it back. This was partly inspired by the group of boys in my class who live for 70s prog rock. Let me tell you something: I’ve never taught a group that was into Rush or Emerson Lake and Palmer. Ever. I’ve taught kids who adored all kinds of nostalgia such as grunge, hip hop, gangsta rap, techno, brit pop, but never Eric Clapton. It’s a musical lesson for me.

They can’t keep their hands off the guitar. While talking about math, they strum. Sharing their insight into the big idea of a book, they pick and pluck. The give lunchtime concerts.

Today I actually heard them talking about drop D tuning. Yes, you can go right ahead and wikipedia that. I absolutely love listening to students having detailed conversations about topics of their own interest.

I was so horrified that I myself had gotten out of practice. I admonished myself for losing the calluses on my fingertips. How dare I forget the chords to Hallelujah? Shame on me. I wondered if it was symbolic of something.

I find it’s hard to keep joy out of your classroom when you have a guitar in there. Even if no one can play, you end up learning. And, boy, if there are some adept ones, watch out.

Long live the classroom piano/guitar.



  1. Ha! I picked up a guitar on Craigslist and put it in my classroom just about two weeks ago… funny that you write about the same thing. The first day was rather comical. All eyes were fixed on it, but no one dared touch it despite my encouragement. Slowly, over time, a team started to pick that corner for their collaboration… may be one student held it and picked out some notes. Just as you said, eventually conversations started taking place while notes were being plucked. Eventually, it became the norm to hear music behind the classroom chatter… particularly on my “workshop” days. I’ve been teaching 16 years and I have no idea why this only occurred to me now.

  2. Good morning Royan! This was the first thing I read when I woke up this morning and it was the connecting piece I have been looking for. I was astonished/appalled/amazed/horrified when I changed schools last year and moved into a secondary school without a music program. I have never worked in a school without music before.

    Last year I toiled over intricate plans to get a music program into the school and they fell flat. I am without music again this year. On Friday evening, I had a conversation with a local musician, Shy-Anne Hovorka (, who is also a qualified teacher, and she said to me that I had to stop thinking about things like trombones and clarinets, that I just needed to order a few sets of drums and get playing!

    Last week, we encouraged students to bring their instruments to school to record a sound track for our MindShareLearn video and it was wonderful to see them playing and discussing and creating.

    Yesterday, my students ran a Christmas concert and the musical talent it showcased was unbelievable.

    We have the talent. We have the interest.

    So you are right. Getting music into my school is as easy as bringing the instruments into the building and watching what evolves.

    Thank you for sharing.

    And I wish I had YOU as a teacher!

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