Mr. Anderson’s title is music teacher, but these two words cannot encompass all that he does. Mr. Anderson teaches Beginning Guitar, Advancing Guitar, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Audio Science. After school, he assists the Chamber Music Society, Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Modern Band, and Percussion Club. His passion for music and teaching is evident just by entering his classroom or engaging in a conversation. Mr. Anderson loves what he does and impacts Eleanor Roosevelt High School in unimaginable ways.
You can often hear students describing any of Mr. Anderson’s classes as “chill” or “fun.” While the words may not do it justice, Mr. Anderson’s class is different (and perhaps more enjoyable) than any other class since our grades do not matter. In fact, the number that is presented on our report card is a number we choose ourselves. Students in any of Mr. Anderson’s classes have come to understand that our education cannot practically be defined by a numerical grade. Instead, we assess ourselves based on our hard work and ability to reach our potential. In turn, class becomes a place where students can truly thrive. No one worries about grades in this class; the only worries that exist are that you won’t be able to play in time or play the right note. Everyone in that class is there because they love music and want to learn.
Besides, in a competitive high school where everyone is fighting to get into the top 10 colleges, not having to worry about a grade creates a positive and stress-free environment. I walk into class knowing I am going to pick up a guitar and play music that I love. I am not going to take a test, I am not going to be scored for my performance. There is a general feeling of happiness amongst the students which translates into our learning.
Even when a student isn’t playing their best or isn’t grasping a concept (for me: diatonic versus non-diatonic chords), Mr. Anderson works with his students in thoughtful ways. Instead of moving forward and coming back to the issue later, Mr. Anderson asks questions and tries to determine where the problem lies. He will pick up an instrument himself, have other students demonstrate and find whatever method it takes to allow others to gain a better understanding. Mr. Anderson always places the students above himself and no student is ever allowed to leave his class confused.
Likewise, Mr. Anderson recognizes the value that students can bring to class. The class is never fully taught by him, rather by him as well as two to three other students. Mr. Anderson is never superior and treats us as like-minded and intelligent peers. All of Mr. Anderson’s classes foster collaboration and allow every student to feel smart and important.
This idea also extends to the many after-school clubs he instructs. When observing any of his clubs, one sees students taking charge: deciding what songs to play or who should do what. In any of Mr. Anderson’s classes or clubs, one can feel respected.
Beyond the learning environment, Mr. Anderson always teaches content that makes us better thinkers and subsequently, better people. We do not simply learn how to play notes and chords. We learn about representation in the music industry, the history with different types of music, and the vast capabilities that music holds. For example, this past January, my advancing guitar class learned about the Chinese New Year anthem, “Gongxi Gongxi.” The song was written to celebrate China’s liberation from Japan and the notes reflect the rhythm of a Chinese drum. We learned to play the song and a few people from our class performed the song at our school’s culture assembly. Mr. Anderson does not treat diversity as taboo; he welcomes diversity and incorporates it into our lessons.
Mr. Anderson has changed the music environment at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. The three concerts (Winter Concert, Spring Guitar Concert, and Spring Band Concert) draw in large crowds and receive monumental applause. Thanks to Mr. Anderson, music is one of the most popular electives (my guitar class has 40 students).
Ultimately, Mr. Anderson values music. He can talk for hours about his favorite songs, the songs that changed his life, or even what songs helped cure his breakups. More importantly, however, Mr. Anderson values his students and their success. Success that is measured not in terms of a grade or a score, but whether a student is meeting his or her potential and is understanding concepts. He devotes time to each student and adapts himself to ensure the student is learning in the best way possible. Every student is different, yet every student’s skills, personality, and background are highlighted in room 206. Mr. Anderson cares about us, and isn’t that all that matters?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.