A Virtuous Circle of High Expectation

As internet sensations go, I’m ashamed to say I caught up with the PS22 choir rather late in the day. Having spent a lot more time than I should have looking at their videos on YouTube. I’m reminded of something Larry Rosenstock (CEO of High Tech High school) said recently – that you can judge the effectiveness of a teacher by the work their students put out. These elementary school kids from New York defy what is considered possible with a junior choir. I’ve seen so many school choirs in England where the kids just sing in unison because the teacher has determined that part-singing (i.e.  using harmonies) is beyond them.

This fantastic teacher, Gregg Breinberg, doesn’t allow anything to compromise his expectations – not the 75%+ free school-meals, or having students with special educational needs, or English as a second language. He’s not only got them to sing with quality tone and precision, but with such emotion. I could have picked any clip, they’re all great, but this one is remarkable, because Gregg claims, on their YouTube channel, that they learned it in one sitting. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing that works – he doesn’t do the usual stock choral repertoire, he picks songs that are current and relevant to his kids. This one’s by Bjork:

11.5m hits, performing for Obama, Beyonce and all over US television stations – these kids deserve every bit of attention they’re getting. But their teacher deserves even more, because every year he loses half of them, and has to do it all over again. However, the kids coming through can’t wait to get in to the chorus, because it’s a virtuous circle of high expectation.

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