For the 2015-16 school year, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation has partnered with 11 educators who we selected to participate in the Rock and Roll: An American Story pilot program. The teachers span middle school, high school, and the university level, teaching in seven states including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado, and California. All teachers are leading either a semester-length or yearlong course using the Rock and Roll: An American Story curriculum.
We recently interviewed Patrick "Mac" McGuire, one of our pilot educators. Mac teaches U.S. History at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, CO.
When did you begin teaching Rock and Roll: An American Story (RRAS) in your classroom?
Two years ago I started supplementing my U.S. History class with lessons from RRAS. The following year, I included more lessons, and once my sequence got to the post-war years, the RRAS curriculum became the framework for instruction with a few diversions. This school year (2015-2016) finds the framework as the foundation of my course on U.S. History, 1945-Present. Looking forward to next year, this curriculum will serve as a stand-alone U.S. History class.
What has been the greatest strength of incorporating RRAS lessons into your courses?
Capturing and connecting to that powerful idea that music can be related to no matter what generation we find ourselves in; that the magic of music lies in the personal connections, motivations, and emotions that result from the listening. Most, if not all of our students are listening to something, and a large number of our kids are way into classic Rock from back in the day. Connecting the dots backwards from what they are listening to, and illuminating their historical perspective and influence, has been a great motivator to deliver my lessons.
Is there a particular lesson or discussion you recall that really engaged your students? How so?
To begin, I'm a big proponent of essential questions to introduce and to retain focus throughout. The students always enjoy and engage in the visual aspects of the lessons from the images and the video clips. I have also made use of the summary and extension activities for focus and purpose. Without question, the most popular lesson has been Elvis and Race in 1950s America. Elvis’s role in the bridge between race music, R&B, and Rock and Roll, with the whole saga taking place in the Deep South, is a powerful statement on music’s barrier-busting power with regards to race relations. The lessons from the Sixties Soul and Civil Rights chapter are popular as well.
What are some ways you've innovated or added onto the lessons?
I have added to the historical timeline perspective by expanding on the items taking place at a particular time, and have begun drawing parallels to things happening today. There are times when my sensibilities are drawn back to the 60s, and for the most part it uncovers some not-so-flattering aspects of America and its struggles that, unfortunately, still seem to be around us today. The parallels of struggle become evident with a look back, combined with a look at today’s artists and what they are writing about and expressing through their work.
Do you have any advice to a teacher just starting to use the RRAS curriculum?
Go for it, trust its quality, look and listen for the “ah-ha” moments of discovery and connection. This is as solid a curriculum as I have seen in my many years in the classroom. It is what drew me towards teaching it two years ago, and as it has expanded, it only gets better. The resources are amazing, the lessons are carefully constructed, and it is all here, all good, and all-important and worthwhile. The kids will buy in if you validate what they are listening to today as the starting point for the journey.