“I am no better and neither are you. We are the same whatever we do.” - “Everday People” by Sly Stone
I want to continue this theme of kids, learning, and music just a little longer. The video above was shared with me by a special ed teacher prior to my visit to her class. All 18 of her students had “special needs” of some kind or another, and their classroom was at the end of the hall in the most remote part of her school’s adjunct building. As the teacher put it, everyone wished they could forget her kids existed.
Lucky for me, this teacher was as resourceful and determined as she was devoted to her kids. She reached out and asked if I would come and read The Not Perfect Hat Club to her class. She thought they would love the book’s message - perfect is not an option but awesome is.
Well, if you know anything about me, you know I can be a total goof - willing to bark like a dog, wear overalls and floppy hats, do sound effects, and wag my tail. This rather unorthodox approach turned out to be exactly what the kids needed. We not only read and discussed the first chapter of the book but produced some mighty fine drawings of dogs as well.
In fact, by the end of that first visit - which the teacher later admitted she thought would be my last - the kids and I had pretty much fallen in love with one another. Over the next six weeks, I continued to visit and read, but as we neared the end of the book, another truly delightful idea occurred to us. Wouldn’t it be fun to make some Not Perfect Hats of our own?
With the help of their teacher and parents, the kids researched the cost of materials (felt, thread, needles, scissors, markers, etc), borrowed a sewing machine, and designed a simple pattern that everyone in the class could sew. Then they got to work.
The kids made over 500 hats, created posters, postcards, and letters announcing the sale of the hats, and sent them to local businesses, radio stations, and newspapers. As a result, the kids were interviewed for articles and appeared on a local radio station. In the end, they sold over $800 worth of hats at $2.00 per hat. Pretty amazing for a class of special ed kids that everyone assumed would never amount to anything.
I’ve never been prouder of any kids than I was of the students in that special ed class. On my last visit, we celebrated with a party (cake, cocoa, soda, chips, and all manner of candy), sang the Not Perfect Hat Club song, and handed out certificates to everyone. These were the students that people used to ignore or make fun of. Now, people were writing newspaper articles about them and buying their hats.
I’ll end this post with a song produced by “Playing for Change” in collaboration with “Turnaround Arts,” a program that uses art to help students in struggling public schools. The program was founded by President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and is now run by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Both organizations use music to transform lives. And yes, it bears repeating. “I am no better and neither are you. We are the same whatever we do.”
So tell me,
What songs would you like to sing with and for kids?
What songs really shaped your childhood?
Can you recommend any organizations that use art to help kids learn?
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Copyright 2021 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.