Spotlight on Kimberly Johnson, Music Teacher
“I hope the music I bring into the classroom spreads joy, curiosity, love, and comfort.”
Why do you teach music?
I teach because I want to follow in my Grandmother’s footsteps. She was the kindest and most nurturing person. I teach music because I love it. Music is something that always brought me joy, inspiration, and comfort. I think this is the best thing to share with others. I hope the music I bring into the classroom spreads joy, curiosity, love, and comfort.
Can you share a story on how you’ve seen music impact a student(s)?
Music really brings out the best in a lot of students. I have one student in band class who has had a hard time with focusing and his playing technique needed improvement. One day in band class, we were learning how to mark time (march in place) and he started to sing and finger the notes on his instrument for Hot Cross Buns, the song we were working on. I told everyone that he’s got the right mindset and they should be ready to sing and march if they want to join marching band in Middle School, High School or College. In fact, I had the whole band join him in singing their parts. I think that really sparked something in him, because every week since he has been progressing a lot. I am so glad to say he is now one of our strongest instrumentalists in the woodwind section.
How do you connect with your students to ensure they feel represented in the classroom?
I do my best to get student input on different things. I feel it is important for students to have a voice and be heard not only by the teacher, but also with each other. There are a lot of instances where students shut down each other’s opinion, so I make it a point for kids to recognize and appreciate different points of view and practice being active listeners.
What advice or resources would you give other music educators to encourage intentional diversity and inclusion in the classroom?
I love to find online resources any way I can, but I would advise other educators to research their sources, too. Learn about cultures from people within the culture because they will have the most authentic insight as to what you want to teach.
Also, if you find out some students are within a culture you want to teach, reach out to their families and see if they want to share with the school.
What is your approach to researching and picking a lesson to share in the music classroom?
I try to find authentic sources of information for what I want to teach. I will watch documentaries, read books, and find websites that have authors from those particular cultures. I don’t want “watered down” lessons so I don’t go to “watered down” sources. We want cultures in full flavor!
As far as picking a lesson, I go with whatever inspires me in the moment. Last year it was a Facebook video about Black American Sign Language (BASL), so I learned about it, did a lot of research, and shared it with the students. This year I really missed my college friends in Louisiana, so I decided to teach the students about the rich culture that lives there. I advise teachers to find something that inspires them, find the connection with music, and then share it with others. Let it be different from the usual. Kids will appreciate it and catch the joy it brings.