An EdChat Soundtrack: 60 Songs to Keep Your Class Jammin’

Pretend this: every day of your teaching career there is a gigantic boombox (Yes, I was raised in the ’80s) hovering just above your head. It includes a very intuitive and accurate D.J. who constantly selects just the right song at the right time. You know, kind of like an Adam Sandler soundtrack. Just like the selected tracks from his movies seems to flow effortlessly alongside his quirky, off-the-wall sense of humor, imagine the tunes pulsating from your floating jambox mirroring the exact moods, challenges, successes, and inspiration you have experienced every day as an educator.
Do you ever wonder what would be playing during a typical work day? How would your soundtrack differ from your first day of teaching to your most recent day at school? What would be the title of your soundtrack? In other words, if your teaching career were made into a motion picture, what would be the name of your movie?
While you ponder these questions, I invite you to listen to the top 60 songs from my soundtrack after sixteen years in the classroom. It’s aptly titled “The Heart as My Conductor.”
(Note: The introduction of these 60 songs follows the following format: Song Title & Artist; Applicable Lyrics; Personal Commentary…if necessary)
Click play and enjoy.
1. “Life in the Fast Lane” by The Eagles. “Life in the fast lane/Surely make you lose your mind.” Remember your first year of teaching? If you were like me, you woke up sometime in June and said, “What happened? Where am I?” That first year of teaching really tests a young educator. It did me.
2. “Standing Outside the Fire” by Garth Brooks. “Life is not tried/It is merely survived/When you’re standing outside the fire.” Teaching is like no other profession. It is hard to explain to someone who has never been in a classroom of thirty-five students how it feels to be accountable for each and every one of them. And, yes, I’ve been burned many times by the overwhelming day-to-day challenges. But I’ve sparked a few flames along the way, too. I find it best to ignite change from within.
3. “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick. “(all lyrics)” This entire song reminds me over and over again that education is the answer.
4. “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. “(title only)” This song establishes the right mindset for tackling and demolishing standardized and mandated tests. I want the tests to “bite the dust,” not our students’ creativity, innovation, and education.
5. “House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. “(all lyrics)” Teachers need to know what all students bring with them to the classroom. “Knowing” who students truly are makes all the difference. How are you learning your students?
6. “Royal” by Lorde. “(the accomplishment of the song)” This song brings me back to Student X and the ultimate question, “What can students create if given the opportunities?” It worked out well for this teenager.
7. “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. “Oh, I won’t be afraid/No, I won’t be afraid/Just as long as you stand by me.” Easily applicable to education. Let’s stand for each other. Students, colleagues, all. Period.
8. “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy. “(the theme of the song)” This is one of those songs that plays when I drift off to Fantasyland, or what my colleagues call “Hardisonville.” Seriously, if I were blessed, and encumbered a bit, by the sudden influx of large amounts of cash, oh the things I would buy for education. Can you say, “No more backpacks”? All students would have their personal learning devices, and all students would have an unbelievably dynamic place to create and interact with their assigned content.
9. “Mr. Roboto” by Styx. “You’re wondering who I am/Machine or mannequin.” Simply put…I don’t ever want my students to wonder this about me.
10. “Party Train” by The Gap Band. “Everybody all aboard.” I aspire to create classrooms that uphold a collaborative, family-like atmosphere while projecting continuing education as a party. Learning should not be boring.
11. “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin. “I’ve been this way ten years to the day.” Hopefully, I will only say this about myself when discussing the honorable characteristics of an effective teacher that should never be compromised. I pray it never applies to an unwillingness to adapt and change in my remaining years as an educator.
12. “It’s a Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock-n-Roll” by AC/DC. “(title)” It is undeniable that I will make sacrifices along the way if I want to create an awesome classroom. As I get older, I’m learning to chisel away at the inessentials.
13. “Word Up” by Cameo. “(title)”  This title reminds me to think forward and upwards. Like pouring a vintage wine down the drain, “stinking thinking” is a waste of my energy.
14. “I’m Alive” by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews. “This boat has caught its wind/And brought me back to life/Now I’m alive and well.” Just a reminder to take care of myself and balance out my life, so I may be of service and of the highest good to those who need me.
15. “Express Yourself” by N.W.A. “Express yourself/Express yourself/Come on and do it.” Self-explanatory. Applies to teachers and students.
16. “Superman” by Five for Fighting. “I can’t stand to fly/I’m not that naive/I’m just out to find/The better part of me.” I want to know how great my students can be and how much I can improve.
17. “Magic” by B.o.B. “I got the magic in me!” We all do.
18. “Firework” by Katy Perry. “(all lyrics)” What a positive song for students to hear!
19. “Say” by John Mayer. “Even if your hands are shaking/And your faith is broken/Even as the eyes are closing/Do it with a heart wide open/Say what you need to say.” Dang right!
20. “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper. “(all lyrics)” One of my greatest prayers is that my two favorite students, my son and my daughter, will one day take these lyrics to heart.
21. “Imagine” by John Lennon. “You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I hope someday you’ll join us.” What can we create in education if we truly come together while first and foremost considering the voices, desires, and needs of our students? Curious? Me too.
22. “Superman’s Song” by the Crash Test Dummies. “Superman never made any money/For saving the world from Solomon Grundy/And sometimes I despair/The world will never see/Another man like him.” This applies to a teacher’s payday. But, oh, if it’s not the best job on the planet. And it is! Can I get an “Amen”?
23. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. “We’ve got the right to choose it/There ain’t no way we’ll lose it/This is our life, this is our song.” Throw the hashtag #stuvoice on a tweet and send these lyrics into the Twitterverse. Can’t wait to see the response.
24. “Dear Mama” by 2Pac. “(the theme of the song)” Although my lyrics would be written differently, it would contain the same tone of respect, love, and gratitude for one of my best teachers of all time. My mother.
25. “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant. “Oh, I believe that/Fate smiled and destiny/Laughed as she came to my cradle/’Know this child will be able’/And laughed as my body she lifted/’Know this child will be gifted'” Shouldn’t we honor all kids with this attitude?
26. “Lowrider” by War. “(title)” I hope to never overlook those students who seek to “cruise below the radar.”
27-29. “Youth of the Nation” by P.O.D., “Ghetto” by Elvis Presley, and “The Ghetto” by Too Short. “(all lyrics)” All three of these songs beg me to pay attention to very important issues that directly reflect students’ education…their environments. (Thanks to @ugaodawg for selecting P.O.D.’s song.)
30. “The Unforgiven” by Metallica. “What I’ve felt/What I’ve known/Never shined through in what I’ve shown/Never be/Never see/Won’t see what might have been/What I’ve felt/What I’ve known/Never shined through in what I’ve shown/Never free/Never me.” I should be unforgiven if my students felt this way in my class.
31. “The River” by Garth Brooks. “(all lyrics)” This song inspires us to dream and to follow our hearts. Sounds like a thrilling voyage.
32. “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. “(the theme of the song)” Just a reminder how students, and teachers, feel some days.
33. “I Tried” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. “You know nothing comes easy/You gotta try real, real hard.” Sounds like a day in education some days, huh?
34. “Just the Two of Us” by Will Smith. “Although questions arose in my mind/Would I be man enough?/Against wrong, choose right and be standin’ up.” It never hurts to check my moral compass and make sure I am doing the right thing and not the selfish thing.
35. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. “Talk to me/So you can see/Oh, what’s going on.” If people want to know how to improve education, they should talk to the experts…the teachers.
36. “Invincible” by Pat Benatar. “This shattered dream you cannot justify/We’re gonna scream until we’re satisfied.” So applicable to many of the #edchat obstacles and discussions I read on Twitter.
37. “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger. “I’m older now/But still running/Against the wind.” Even with a lot of experience, some days are more challenging than others.
38. “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. “I can see all obstacles in my way/Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.” Taking an honest self-evaluation and speaking with my peers always helps me grow as a teacher and discard those practices which no longer are successful.
39-40. “My City of Ruins” by Eddie Vedder. “With these hands/Come on, rise up!” AND “Right Now” by Van Halen. “Right now/It’s yourtomorrow/Right now/C’mon, it’s everything/Right now/Catch that magic moment/And do it right now/…Tell me, what are you waiting for?/Turn this thing around.” Regarding all things #edchat, amen! (Thanks to @Pen63 for suggesting “Right Now.”)
41. “Technology” by Corey Smith. “(all lyrics)” This song serves as a humorous warning about technology and reminds me to use edtech as tools, not toys.
42. “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. “(all lyrics)” The best way I can change the world is to change myself.
43. “Some Nights” by Fun. “What do I stand for?” I ask myself this often as an educator. The answers reveal my true character. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable to hear.
44-45. “Maggie’s Farm” by Bob Dylan and covered by Rage Against the Machine. “No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more/Well, I wake up in the morning/Fold my hands and pray for rain/I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin’ me insane.” AND “Authority Song” by John Mellencamp. “(all lyrics)” It can be quite discouraging to feel powerless when educational reform heads in a direction that I don’t agree with. These songs appeal to all educators’ rebellious sides by demanding they respectfully speak their minds.
46-47. “Coming from Where I’m from” by Anthony Hamilton. “Started when I was nine years old/Woke up and daddy was gone/I started hustlin’ and they couldn’t tell me nothin’/Frontin’ in the ‘hood tryin’ to be somebody/My soul was on empty/I was searchin’ for something.” AND “House of Pain” by Faster Pussycat. “(all lyrics)” Both of these songs illustrate how the absence of parents effects students’ motivation and education. As educators, we can’t move forward in our classrooms if we are unaware of these critical facts.
48. “Something to Believe In” by Poison. “And give me something to believe in.” In connection with the comment for 46 and 47, so many kids are searching for their talents, their niches, theirsomething to believe in.” Let’s help them find it.
49-50. “Fly Away” by Nelly. “They can punch me high/And they can kick me low/Spit on me/It’s gonna take more than that/For them to break my soul.” AND “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks. “Can the child within my heart rise above?/Can I sail through the changing ocean tides/Can I handle the seasons of my life?/Mmmmm, I don’t know.” Don’t take this first one literally. However, Joe Jordan, the toughest coach I ever knew, taught me so well, “When your back’s against the wall, you gotta dig down deep and come out with your all.” I hope my students learn this valuable lesson when, not if, life challenges them with its toughest tests. I know they have the moxie within them. Hopefully, they will be able to answer with a hearty “Yes” to Stevie Nicks’ question.
51. “Control” by Janet Jackson. “(title only)” Ahh, this one tap-dances on most teachers’ nerves. An educational partnership based on continual growth stemming from respect, trust, general concern for everyone’s well-being, and a rockin’ classroom trumps control any day.
52. “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.” Seriously. You didn’t think I would leave this one out, did you?
53-56. “Alright” by Darius Rucker. “(all lyrics)” AND “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. “(all lyrics)” AND “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. “(all lyrics)” AND “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog. “But I can’t feed on the powerless/When my cup’s already overfilled.” Perhaps these four songs comprise an odd mix, but I disagree. You see, remembering my blessings, the beauty present in our world, and the fact that time is fleeting creates a sense of urgency to take action and live life to the fullest while offering the best I possess. This mentality will surely benefit all who know me.
57-58. “One” by U2. “One life but we’re not the same/We get to carry each other/Carry each other/One/One.” AND “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. “(all lyrics)” The best advice for implementing changes in our classrooms and to our educational system are well-stated by Bono and Bill. We must come together as one. Perhaps my colleague, @lewis_stan, however, said it best: “Learning begins with relationship.”
59. “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. “So to you, all the kids all across the land/There’s no need to argue/Parents just don’t understand.” Of course, it’s always beneficial to remember how teenagers feel about their parents. Didn’t you feel the same?
60. “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts. “(all lyrics)” Just take the time to listen to this song, and you’ll understand.
I need a little help with my final, and favorite, tune. It seems to be incomplete. “Cast Away” by Alan Silvestri is purely instrumental. No lyrics whatsoever. Perhaps you can lend me a hand by adding the words.
No need to worry if you struggle.
Simply place your index finger on your sternum and push “play.”
Your heart will do the rest.

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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Caroline Vander Ark

John- This post made me smile. What a fun list of songs. I think you should make a Spotify playlist with all of these so we can jam out during the days to this fun list.


John Hardison

Thanks, Caroline. So glad these songs put a smile on your face. Hopefully, this will get educators reflecting on their soundtracks and how much they have grown on their professional journeys. By the way, great idea about using Spotify. I will definitely look into it.


Spotify Playlist (Sorry, it says by me, but it is yours yours yours!!)


John Hardison

Thanks, Donna, for compiling this awesome soundtrack. It must have taken a lot of time. I've already jammed out to it twice.

Greg Odell

I still can't believe "LunchLady Land" didn't make this list.


John Hardison

Absolutely, Greg. What a hilarious song.

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