A Teacher’s Soundtrack and the #EdSongs Challenge

Blog Series, Learning, Online & Blended, Smart Teachers

On any given day, every student, classroom, and school has a certain rhythm and beat that oftentimes fluctuates minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour to reveal the true cadence of learning. These “edsongs,” as I wish to call them, range from tracks edgy with rebellion like Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” to raps laden with warnings like Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” to inspirational songs that keep any listener’s spirit anchored yet buoyant like Garth Brooks’ “The River.”

Passionate and dedicated teachers are no different. You see, we have our own soundtracks of thematic jams, too. Sure, some of us may be unaware of the actual tracks we would select if, ala The Ron Clark Story, we were offered a contract with creative rights to produce our own biographical movies and accompanying soundtracks.

And, honestly, I think this unawareness, this lack of music as a form of professional reflection is a crying shame. In fact, it is quite a sad tune…and one that should be replaced with thematic songs thumping with such energy, heart, and forward thinking that professional stagnation is not an option. Of course, there are many ways teachers can reflect on their classroom practices. Blogging, maintaining a professional learning network, and attending conferences are just several. But they all take something that many educators lack today…time.

But I’ve got a rockin’ idea to help all teachers find their own rhythm and beat.

Grab your old CDs, dust off your ancient vinyl records, lay out your cassettes… heck, pick up your brick-like 8 tracks if needed… or merely thumb through your smartphone’s musical collection and give yourself just ten minutes to choose ten songs that vibrate to that melody of awesomeness, yet reality, that you embody as a professional educator. Then, you will have your very own “Teacher’s Soundtrack.”

In addition to this ultimate soundtrack of sixty songs, please allow me to kick off the #edsongs challenge with a look at my latest 10-song soundtrack.

(Note: The introduction of these 10 songs follows the following format: Song Title & Artist; Applicable Lyrics (with links); Comments.)

  1. “Am I Wrong” by Nico and Vinz. “(all lyrics)” Seriously. If I passed away today and my colleagues were searching for the perfect song to share my vision of what education can truly be, this is the song I want thumping from some corner 12-inch woofers. Lines such as “Am I wrong for thinking out the box from where I stay?” and “Am I tripping for having a vision?” are my absolute heartbeats when thinking about moving forward in the classroom. Believe me, time spent jamming to these lyrics can’t be wrong. Then we all can be right. 
  1. “For Those About to Rock” by AC/DC. For those about to rock, we salute you.” This one line says it all. If you and your students are truly rocking the class out and unleashing creativity with project/passion-based learning and interactive structures, stand up and receive your glory…’cause you rock.  
  1. “Gravity” by John Mayer. Keep me where the light is.” Standardized testing, pessimistic colleagues, negative teachers’ lounges, and the daily grind of teaching can seem nearly unavoidable at times. This line from John Mayer reminds me to place my feet where my educational spirit can bask in the rays of positivity: hanging with my district and Twitter PLN, practicing a balanced lifestyle, holding firmly to my spiritual beliefs, and putting my family and friends first helps “keep me where the light is.” After all, I know if I stay where the light is, truth will be illuminated and my students will shine. 
  1. “Good to Be Me” by Uncle Kracker with Kid Rock. “(Title)”  I truly believe teachers should showcase more of what they do…not in an arrogant, “look-at-me” way but in a way that says, “Hey, I work hard to achieve success for my students, and I will gladly risk any erroneous presumptions of egotism in order to stand up and share my best practices so that other educators and students from all around may benefit.” If my explanation makes no sense, take a listen to Uncle Kracker’s rationale AND watch this video clip from Coach Carter. 
  1. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. “(all lyrics)” Argue if you must, but teaching is the best job on the planet. Connecting with students in a way that is unmistakably a result of engaging activities and a creative learning environment makes me absolutely ecstatic. You know, the kind of happiness Pharrell tries to put into words
  1. “Me Against the World” by Tupac Shakur. “I know it seems hard sometimes, but uhhh/Remember one thing/Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that/So no matter how hard it gets, stick your chest out/Keep your head up, and handle it.” Even with the support of professional learning networks, when the door closes and you are face-to-face with a class of thirty students, teaching can feel like a lonely profession sometimes. I find courage in these matter-of-fact, hard-nosed words from Tupac.  
  1. “Hall of Fame” by The Script. “(all lyrics)” This is another perfect song with perfect lyrics. Every line beckons listeners to strive for their absolute best in order to accomplish the nearly unimaginable goals. These lyrics are so inspirational that students and teachers would do themselves a favor if they carried of copy of this song in their back pockets every day. 
  1. “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins. I’m alright/Don’t nobody worry ’bout me/You got to give me a fight/Won’t you just let me be Have you ever had a far-out, creative idea only to have it ridiculed by naysayers? Sure, you may have been a student or an educator. Either way, these lines say perfectly what you may have been thinking. 
  1. “Wildside” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. “(all lyrics)” Education is serious business. That’s a given. Nonetheless, it helps to be reminded of the temptations our students may face on the wildside. 
  1. “Long Way to Go” by Corey Smith. “(all lyrics)” Not only does this story tell the truth about a young student’s coming-of-age, the title reminds all educators and students that there are always more challenges to accept, more obstacles to conquer, and more lessons to learn. Yep. We all have a long way to go. 

I can’t wait to hear your soundtracks. Be sure to tag me on Twitter @JohnHardison1 and use the hashtag #edsongs. And remember, if you are about to rock the class, I salute you.

For more blogs by John Hardison, check out:

John Hardison

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC) in Gainesville, Georgia. By creating a flexible class where literature creatively comes to life on a stage with students as the stars, Mr. Hardison focuses heavily on creativity, interactive structures, and student choices. In the past 18 years at East Hall High School, he has taught AP Language, American Literature, World Literature, and Applied Communications. Through original learning structures and a shared classroom concept, students are inspired to connect literature with their own talents and interests. Mr. Hardison shares his classroom concept and interactive structures by presenting at professional conferences and upon request by various schools. Look for John at ISTE and follow him on Twitter at @JohnHardison1.


Tom Vander Ark /

John Mayer, No Such Thing, http://www.metrolyrics.com/no-such-thing-lyrics-john-mayer.html

“Welcome to the real world”
She said to me condescendingly
Take a seat, take your life
Plot it out in black and white

Well, I never lived the dream of the prom kings
And the drama queens
I’d like to think the best of me
Is still hiding up my sleeve

They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above

So the good boys and girls
Take the so called right track
Faded white hats
Grabbing credits and maybe transfers

They read all the books but they can’t find the answers
And all of our parents, they’re getting older
I wonder if they’ve wished for anything better
While in their memories tiny tragedies

They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you got to rise above

I am invincible
I am invincible
I am invincible
As long as I’m alive

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above

I just can’t wait ’til my ten year reunion
I’m gonna bust down the double doors
And when I stand on these tables before you
You will know what all this time was for

Tyler Nakatsu /

Rat Race by The Specials
Winners Never Quit by Pedro The Lion
We’re So DIY by Math & Physics Club
We Rule The School by Belle & Sebastian
Losing My Edge by LCD Soundsystem
Doug Flutey by Javelin
Graduation by Vitamin C (classic)
Pizza Day by The Aquabats
Rock n Roll High School by The Ramones
You Can’t Blame the Youth by Peter Tosh

Penny Christensen /

Right Now – Van Halen – Students need to feel urgency! https://youtu.be/rMV-fenGP1g
Amazing – Aerosmith: the best thing I can do is move students to where they discover themselves as a learner

Megan Mead /

Mix of motivation and good vibe jams! Thanks John

Tedeschi Trucks, Bound for Glory
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Summertime
Punch Brothers, My Oh My
The Beatles, Let it Be
Survivor, Eye of the Tiger
New Radicals, You Get What You Give
‘N Sync, Music of My Heart
Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, When You Believe
Aretha Franklin, Respect
Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk, (Because sometimes you just need to dance…)