Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teaching Social Responsibility with Musicals

There are many ways that as educators we look at ways of working with children on self-regulation, social responsibility and bullying.  We tend to bring in artificial scenarios that the kids cannot relate to, blatantly obvious situations that the kids see right away but rarely happen in real life or we preach.  If the only time these lessons are taught is a contrived environment we risk losing them.

A few weeks ago I went to see Wicked with a friend of mine and had a chance to talk about all the different musicals we saw.  There is something about a good musical, the way the music just captivates you.  There are 3 musicals that really stand out for me for a variety of reasons.  The first is Les Miserables, I love the story first and foremost, and I am in the process of reading the novel by Victor Hugo again.  The second one is Wicked and the third one is Hairspray.

Les Miserables is an amazing story of personal transformation by a man who finally had someone believe in him.  The change in Jean Valjean when he is brought back to the Bishop's residence with the silver that he had stolen.  It is during this part that it comes to one of my favourite literacy moments:

The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:--
"Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man."
Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:--
"Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."

This leads to the amazing change in Jean Valjean from hardened criminal to heartened citizen. He becomes an upstanding citizen who never forgot the opportunity he was given.  There were times where he could have faltered but did not.  In the end he ends up making the lives of those around him better, because someone gave him a chance and believed in him. 
This clip takes you from his time in prison to his meeting with the bishop.
The clip shows you the new Jean Valjean and the way he is still viewed by the police officer.

Wicked was a musical that I saw for the first time at the end of June.  It was an interesting look into school life.  The way it delves into relationships, bullying, friendships, perceptions, seeing the person for who they are on the insider and many other lessons we try to instill in our students is remarkable.  There are so many rich conversations that could be had because of it.
A great clip from the musical of Elphaba standing her ground.

Hairspray is another great story that explores relationships on so many levels.  The story takes place in 1962 and delves into body image, racial relations, separation and segregation and again seeing the good in people, not just how good they look.  The ending of the musical is quite powerful and a heck of a lot of fun.

Great music, wonderful story lines, amazing life lessons and fantastic opportunities to discuss choices, acceptance, inclusion and giving people a chance.  A fun learning environment through music, why not?

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, Remi! There's a great musical by Jason Robert Brown called "13"-- great songs and subject matter is very relate-able to younger kids as opposed to the headier subjects in Les Mis.