Music to Exercise the Brain

I had the honor and pure enjoyment of starting my week attending and supervising our winter band concert this past week.  I am always over the top impressed with the level of musical skill our students are able to demonstrate in such a short period of time.

We share our band instructor with 3 other schools and the students only have one practice together before each concert.   When you think about it that is pretty amazing!



Our school is lucky to be able to have a band and music program under the direction of two hard-working and talented teachers.  I often think they do not get enough credit for the work they are doing with our students.

Our band teacher works tirelessly to gather instruments, find music, support practice and plan concerts.  It requires never-ending patience and dedication. She also organizes a trip for our grade 8 band students every year, so they can celebrate their hard work and accomplishments.

I don’t know if many of you have heard beginning band students in September or have stood in a room full of young band students warming up anticipating a concert.  Let me tell you it is not pretty!  I usually have to hover half in the hallway because I cannot stand the noise level and confusion.  Band and music teachers take this in their stride on a daily basis.


Winter Band Concert
Winter Band Concert

Our music teacher provides many creative musical opportunities for all of our students.  She runs a choir and our students were able to sing both at Creighton Lodge and the local nursing home this past week. They were also able to participate in … and sing at our Remembrance Day Service.  Right now she is working long hours coordinating our k-3 annual Christmas concert which will take place this coming week. It is a night of excitement and fun enjoyed by all.  Many times a week as I am walking around our school,  I witness students so excited because they are off to music class.

Grade 1 Music
Grade 1 Music

It can be hard to teach on the fringe.  I do it myself, and it can be difficult at times to see the importance of the “extra” subjects when we are lining them up against math, English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.

We all know that everything we teach is important, but when it comes to music education, I think it is time to give credit where credit is due.

Now that we have the ability to study brain neurology there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that music affects our development and functioning in a variety of ways such as:

  • Reading and literacy skills
  • Spatial-temporal reasoning
  •  Mathematic abilities
  • Emotional intelligence

Research is showing us that music has a variety of healing qualities such as pain relief and reducing blood pressure and headaches.  It improves memory performance and helps us work more productively.

In fact, music is one of the few activities that involves the whole brain.

Other research is showing a connection between playing an instrument and improved executive functioning such as problem solving, switching between tasks and focus.

The thing I find a bit frustrating is, despite the growing body of evidence that supports music and arts programs, they are often the first things to be cut off the list when money is tight and resources are limited.  Band and music are expensive programs to offer because they require specialized equipment and travel is often necessary, but the benefits to all areas of student development cannot be argued.


I hope that our students and parents will continue to support our band program understanding the short and long-term benefits of playing a musical instrument. The school division requires a minimum number of students to be in a unit of instruction.  I worry sometimes that our numbers will fall below those minimums and we will not longer be able to offer our students such a unique and wonderful opportunity.


When I was attending school I did not have the option to participate in a band program.  I think I missed out on something very important and valuable. I am grateful that my son was able to learn to play a trumpet and have the experience of playing in a band.  I realize that it will probably not be something he carries throughout his life, but the benefits of the experience will be long-lasting.

I hope that before we dismiss supporting the band and music programs in our schools that we will take a moment and consider that what we are giving up is much more than “just another class.”





Student leadership…well worth the struggle.

A few years ago when I started my position as vice-principal, all of our middle-years students became my sole responsibility once a cycle for 45 minutes.  Since then, I have recruited our French teacher to help me with our leadership teams, but let me tell you, it is still  the most overwhelming 45 minutes in most of my weeks.

There are times when I think trying to turn middle year’s students into leaders will kill me, but I still consider it worth the effort. Let me start out by explaining how we organize our students.

photo (20)
Spirit Heroines

We have 6 to 8 different leadership teams each year.  We start the process by explaining what the teams are and having all students put in an application making a case for why they feel they should be a member of a particular team.  Each student must explain what they think they have to offer the team, as well as supply some ideas that might help the team get started.

They apply for 2 teams they would like to be a part of.

Once we have made up our team lists by using the applications and what we know about the students, we are off and running. They choose their team names and develop norms for the expectations of teams members.

dixieland donkeys
Dixieland Donkeys

This year’s teams are:

  • Heroic Helpers Social Justice Team-right now they working on Purple for Peyton Cancer awareness and an anti-bullying kindness campaign.
  • McDonalds Team– running the hot lunch program and nutrition awareness.  Served 160 order of Poutine to students last week.
  • Spirit Heroines– organized a haunted house and dance party for Halloween, have put all students in the school into spirit teams with dog names and colors to support our “Bulldog” mascot.
  • Creative Clubs– made a club proposal form and surveyed students from 1-8 about what clubs they would like to have.  Starting 4 school clubs in January.
  • Dixieland Donkeys Sports Team-on their second round of intramurals and have planned a family movie night in January to raise money to buy a school bull-dog mascot.
  • The Virus Digital Team-making Vine videos modeling behavior expectations, a school video promoting our school and take picture of events.

The majority of the activities happening in our school are student driven.  The students do everything from organizing our intramural program, organizing and running our spirit activities, doing morning and afternoon announcements, deciding what social justice issues we are going to be involved in, organizing, shopping, cooking and serving our hot meal program, running our canteen, and organizing and running all of our assemblies and pep rallies and services.

Wow!  They are awesome!

hot lunch
McDonalds Team Making Poutine


Now, I might be remiss if I did not mention the fact,  encouraging and driving middle-years students to be good leaders is a lot of work.  Most of the organizing portion of our activities tends to raise my blood pressure, and I am certain it also drives most of the classroom teachers crazy in the early years and elementary end of the school.  As I stand back and watch the activities unfold, however,  I couldn’t be any prouder as a principal.  The end result is often even better than we would have imagined.

remembrance day
Remembrance Day Service


I would like to think the students in our school have a voice, and I hope they feel their voices are heard.  We start the year by explaining what happens in the school is really up to them.  We are willing to consider all ideas and work to help them decide which ideas will come into reality, but if they want things to happen, they have to do the work. Each year and each group of students brings a different level of success and is a new learning experience.

pink pomeranians
K-8 Pink Pomeranian School Spirit Team


Some might argue that not all students are leaders and I agree.  We would not have strong leaders if we did not have a group of strong followers and supporters. This very idea is portrayed in the video, “First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy”.


It is also what guides me as a principal.  I could not do my job in the same way,  if not for the strong group of teachers, support staff, parents and students that I have driving me and supporting me along the way.

Even though I think, often, that the leadership teams will kill me, and drive our staff crazy…in the end, when I calm down, and I sit back and reflect on our student leadership program, I can’t help but feel extremely proud of our students.  We put a lot of responsibility on them at a young age, but they continue to rise to the challenge.

I can’t wait to see what they will do next!