There was a while where I really listened to a lot of Chet Baker, a jazz trumpeter who was most popular in the 50s. There was something about his music that I really liked. It had soul to it. Most jazz musicians know a thing or two about chords. In truth, jazz musicians are some of the most intelligent musicians of them all because they really know how music works. Chet was different, though. He couldn’t read chords. Chet Baker was not considered a slacker. In fact, he played with the best of them. He just knew the jazz language. Now, he could read music, but he couldn’t dissect it into analytical parts. The jazz language just came out of his horn. Chet was not the best trumpet player, but his style was unique because he was free and he could communicate what was in his head.
I was thinking about this the other day and how important it is to teaching. One of the reasons why Chet’s music was so good was because it wasn’t analyzed, but it contained a piece of his heart. That is what is inspiring to people, the heart.
I want to teach like Chet played. Chet knew the basics, in L2 this would be reading and writing. However, he did not know about chords, in L2 this would be the specific grammar. Our kids do not need to know the specific grammar to speak the language, they just need to know how to read and write. But the real music comes in the meaningful communication that they make. This happens when we create stories in class.
The stories are living and from the heart. They contain real forms of language that are personal to the students. They aren’t learning abstract, L2 jargon, they are acquiring and using meaningful, acoustical language that is real. The best part is that they are standing right in the middle of it, like a morning fog that embraces your whole being. What could be a better way to learn a language?