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Music Sends Toes
Tapping to Class

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When students in one Wichita school hear the theme music to "Mission Impossible," they know their mission: to get to class. Truesdell Middle School is just one in which students are greeted with music that sets the tone for the day and gets them moving to class in a timely fashion. Principals say playing music before the bell hits all the right notes. Included: Discover some musical selections used by schools to start the day.

When Leroy Parks arrived at Southeast High School in Wichita, Kansas, he was faced with a huge tardiness problem. The students were not motivated to get to class on time. Parks learned of another principal who was using music to get students moving in the morning, and he decided to give it a try at Southeast.

"Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode was selected at the suggestion of my assistant principal Fred Crayton," says Parks. "We like the song because it encourages the students to go, go, go, but also it advises them to be good! We try and encourage the kids to go to class and to be good while they are in class."

The song resonates in the halls before the morning bell as well as after the lunch period. Parks reports that the number of students who are late for class has decreased dramatically. The effect of the tune became evident to him when there was a malfunction with the music one morning, and he and other staff members had to circulate among the students and tell them that it was time to get to their classrooms.

"We had several students say, 'We will go to class when the music starts,'" Parks recalled. "That morning was a disaster!"

The experience showed staff members the value of the music and how important it is for the morning music to start on time.

Parks plans to continue using music to let his students know that it is time to start the school day. He intends to stick with Johnny B. Goode because it fits with the culture of the school and the students are conditioned to get in motion when they hear it. They recognize each phrase in the song and have a good idea about how much time is left before classes begin.

"To change now or in the future would mean that we would have to retrain the kids to another song, and I think at this time it would be to disruptive to the educational flow of our day," admits Parks.

"HUSTLING" TO THE CLASSROOM

Principal Jennifer Sinclair of Truesdell Middle School gives Parks credit for spreading the sound of morning music to her Wichita school. It was a conversation with him that led Sinclair to play songs to start the day in two middle schools that she has led.


Mission Possible

At Truesdell Middle School in Wichita, music doesn't just play before the bell, it is the bell. Principal Jennifer Sinclair has turned off the 8:00 a.m. bell in lieu of three songs. When the theme to Mission Impossible is heard, the students know that they literally have a "mission" -- to get to class. When this tune ends, their time is up.

Sinclair turned off the bell because the school lacks an advanced automated system that can be set to cue the music. A staff member starts the songs each morning through a CD player, and if she is running even a few seconds behind, the bell could ring in the middle of the music, generating confusion.

"It creates total chaos because it raises the question are the students late or not? Are they late on the bell or late at the end of the music?" says Sinclair. "This way, there's no question. Late is when the music stops. Kids (and teachers) become very dependent on it, so it's crucial that it happens on time every day."

Sinclair's playlist includes The Hustle by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony, I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown, and the theme from the television program Mission Impossible. The Hustle was chosen to get the students hustling to class. Sinclair likes the message of I Got You because it can be hard for kids -- and adults -- to get up and going in the morning, and this song has an inspiring, upbeat feel.

"The theme to Mission Impossible plays when there's one minute until the students are late," Sinclair explained. "That song just increases the urgency. We've got kids who start spinning the dial on their locker at that song, just to see if they can make it, and they learn very quickly whether they can or not!"

Music before the bell eliminates the need to usher Truesdell students to their classrooms and takes the guesswork out of how much time is left until class is in session.

"The culture here is that when the music starts, it's time to get moving," Sinclair adds. "We just don't fight that inertia anymore."

Last year, just for fun, the school held a mini workshop about how to do the hustle during an in-service day. With help from clips on YouTube, staff members taught their peers how to perform the dance. On the next school day morning, several teachers lined up in the halls and danced while the music played. The students loved it.

The morning songs are a permanent fixture in Sinclair's school, and she reports that there are no plans to change.

"I know some schools do different music every day or change monthly, but for us the whole point is that kids get to know the songs and know to the note how much time they have left," she observed.

HEIGH-HO, HEIGH-HO, IT'S OFF TO CLASS WE GO

In the halls of West Jordan (Utah) High School, music can be heard two minutes before the start of each class period during the day. Mike Kochevar, an assistant principal, plays what he likes -- from television theme songs to songs of the 1950s to Christmas music during the holiday season. The practice began at the recommendation of his peers.

"Several of the schools in our district were playing music, and administrators said that it helped get kids moving because of the constant reminder to get to class," recalls Kochevar.

West Jordan students are trained to move when the music starts.

"I've heard several people whistling the Gilligan's Island or The Andy Griffith Show themes. They seem to like the music," Kochevar shared. He believes that choosing fun music is the key to success.

"Playing music before class works great for us," he added. "We wish we would have done it sooner."

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