What are your #NBCTtunes?

June 17, 2015

Editor’s Note:  Joanna Schimizzi, NBCT, is a biology teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina. The views expressed in this blog are her own.

Is your classroom a headphones-free zone?

Headphones-free zone!! When students walk into my classroom, they know they should never ask if they can listen to headphones while they are working. My position was always that we were doing cognitively complex work in my class, and I had read the research on multi-tasking versus switching – like this NPR story that cites the research of a professor of neuroscience at MIT. Turns out that what we all think is multi-tasking, is actually just switching between tasks. This actually produces much less desirable outcomes and that the brain is struggling.

So for the longest time, my answer to the oft-asked question was “absolutely not”. Then I ran across a blog post about Background music – a boost or a bummer. This post was written by the director of the Center for Communication Research at University of Wisconsin – Madison, and she makes great points about when music is actually effective. For repetitive tasks, music can actually improve efficiency and accuracy. Think about the Army Cadences, such as these from the University of Vermont. To take your mind off of menial tasks, music can be a great motivator. However… I do strongly feel that the strong majority of my tasks that I assign are not repetitive.

What changed my mind is the idea that music can be a great motivator to jump-start your mood as you begin a task. Watch any professional sports team warm-up, and you are hard-pressed to not see headphones on almost every athlete. And we all know that teachers are under just as much stress as athletes (if not even higher stakes).

So, what would be the soundtrack of an NBCT? Whether it’s for grading papers, writing lesson plans, running, cooking,  or just hanging out on the couch – NBCTs know that music activates a different part of our brains. Check out this article from Time about why your brain craves music. This summary of a primary source from researchers in Finland that shows that processing of music activates creative areas of the brain.

I asked my friends to share their National Board playlist, and here are their suggestions (with my own commentary) on why these are #NBCTtunes:

My suggestion, based on my memories of my NBCT process – "Love me like you do" by Ellie Goulding:

You’re the light, you’re the night (Lightbulb moment!! Late at night Eureka moments!)

You’re the color of my blood (Red pens galore from my peer editors!)

You’re the cure, you’re the pain (Look at my teaching process! And look at my cramped fingers!)

Love me like you do, love me like you do (Oh NBPTS… we spend so much time together!!)

Yeah, I’ll let you set the pace (Now with the new candidate format, I really can set my own pace!)

My friend Terri Vest, NBCT, recommended a song to remind us of why we embark on this journey. During your candidacy, you might question if you have what it takes to become an NBCT. Play “Power of the Dream” by Celine Dion to remind yourself that every boy and every girl is worth it.

Cindy Kendrick, an NBCT in Dallas, TX, shouted out a song that is an anthem of many to get pumped up and go out and tackle it all! When you need something to remind you that any task is possible, Cindy recommends turning up the volume of Katy Perry’s “Roar”.

Whether she’s working with teachers or students, NBCT Lauren Sabo recommends songs that keep you going even when you’re up late, late, late at night. You might find yourself needing a stretch or snack break during a late-night entry session. Tune your computer to “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Van Morrison and get that inspiration that keeps you motivated.

And for those moments when you just need to grab the mike and play some air guitar to work off that stress and get the brain re-activated… nothing hits the spot like some early 80s music. Hannah Bethea has a huge soundtrack for NBCT work, and she always includes “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. You can be sure that your creativity will be primed after your karaoke round with this tune!

To round out your soundtrack, you might include

Bob Marley — Everything’s Gonna be Alright

Taylor Swift — Shake it Off

Rimsky-Korsakov — Flight of the Bumblebee

And so, now we go back to take a sneak peek back into our classrooms. As we think about our own journeys, how do we let that inform the type of environment that produces creative and thoughtful workers. There’s the challenge! Be sure to join the conversation by sharing about your classroom music environment or favorite work soundtracks using the hashtag #NBCTtunes.


Joanna Schimizzi, NBCT

Joanna Schimizzi is a National Board Certified Teacher in her 8th year teaching Biology and AP Biology in public schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. Schimizzi has been passionate about helping increase student interest in science and careers and has pursued that passion by forging a variety of community and university partnerships. To help ensure that all students have access to excellent teaching, Schimizzi has also collaborated with organizations that advance the teaching profession, and presented at conferences including the 2014 Teaching & Learning Conference.