Music has always been an important part of Zachary Jones’s life. At the age of seven he received his first musical instrument, a harmonica, and has been playing music ever since. In 2016, his musical background led him to attend a Guitars in the Classroom training where he learned how to begin integrating music into his curriculum.
For the past seven years, Jones, affectionately called “Coach” by his colleagues, has been a physical education teacher at Fay Elementary School, a Title I school in the diverse City Heights community of San Diego. It is here that Jones has brought music into the most unlikely of places: his physical education class.
The joy the students have in Jones’s class is evident as they excitedly follow their teacher’s instructions. After running on the field, the students usually take a quick water break before the next activity, the perfect time for Jones to integrate his musical ability. He explained that water breaks after a warm up are when he typically uses music.
“I use it as a brain break when we have done something like a high energy activity and they have exerted themselves and are sweaty or tired. It is just a quick brain or rest break for maybe five to 10 minutes. I take them to the office or auditorium to sing. If students are misbehaving at first during that period, I notice they behave better after the music is played,” Jones explained.
Jones will use the guitar to explain the next activity the students will be doing. Students continue to sing as they enter into the next activity, motivated and excited by the music. Since learning the GITC method, Jones has written songs such as “This School is Your School,” taking the melody and rhythm from “This Land is Your Land” and changing the lyrics to specifically fit Fay Elementary School and his students.
“Just like in basketball, when I use my fingertips to make the best shot, I just started making metaphorical baskets as the song lyrics came to me. I began adding more things about the school and how the school is multicultural and how we are one big culture from many nations,” Jones explained.
Because Jones teaches physical education, he modifies GITC’s method to fit his curriculum. He lets the kids participate by adding shakers to the music, incorporating physical movement and engagement.
Jones is enthusiastic about the future of music in his classroom saying, “Maybe next year I will try to create an activity that is used with the guitar. We can go into the auditorium where I will play a couple chords and my students will have to freeze when the music stops like a freeze dance.” Jones would love to see more physical education teachers try GITC’s methods because of the positive effect he has seen on his students, as well as the joy it brings him as a teacher.
“GITC gave me more confidence to bring music into the classroom,” said Jones. “GITC gives teachers the confidence to play an instrument in the classroom because they learn how to be comfortable with each other and with their students. I have seen the music positively impact my relationship with my students and their behavior.”