Math Time Melodies

Teacher shares her experience playing music in the classroom

Ayesha Khan, Editor in Chief

Gossip Girl left its legacy on viewers in more ways than one — the catchy tunes associated with some of its most iconic scenes are often remembered by viewers. One of BV’s very own math teachers, Jill Robbins, hopes to leave the same memorable touch on her students as she melodizes their work time. 

“I got the idea years ago from Mr. Kennedy,” she said. “I was in his room for some reason, and I thought, ‘Background music — that’s a good idea, I should try that.’ Then I just started doing that.”

Robbins finds that music tends to make her classroom a more comfortable learning environment.

“I’d like to think that for a lot of kids, it’s a nice background so you’re not just hearing everybody’s paper rustle,” she said. “I think kids are less embarrassed to ask a question when they think there’s enough background noise that people aren’t going to hear them ask it — especially when we have people in masks and it’s so hard to hear anyway.”

In addition to easing awkward silence and lifting spirits, it has brought about unexpected connections with students.

“The thing I think is interesting is that the ‘80s is when I was in high school and college, and a lot of the kids know those songs,” Robbins said. “I have to assume that some of their parents are probably playing them at home, too.”

The upbeat melodies tend to be favored by most students — however, the difficulty comes with varying music tastes.

“I try to get a little bit of everything,” Robbins said. “Sometimes it’s hard to make sure what you’re playing is appropriate for school, so I’d be careful about that, but I have a lot of ‘80s, early ‘90s stuff [and some] country.”

Despite minor adversity, Robbins has found more of a positive outurn from students than the latter.

“I hope if it really bothers kids that they would let me know and I would try to find a happy medium,” she said. “Overwhelmingly, most kids have said they enjoy it. I’ve gotten requests for some other playlists, some of which I’m not comfortable playing in class, but I try to get a mix. I have it shuffle, and I try to make it a little more upbeat or cheery.”

She realizes music may not be practical for all classroom types but encourages others to give it a try if they can. 

“I know it’s not always [ideal] — if you are taking a test or if you’re having a discussion, it’s hard to have music in the background — if you’re doing a lab, as the teacher, you have to talk above everybody to make sure that everybody hears all the safety warnings,” Robbins said. “I think it’s a fun thing to do every now and then — it’s a changeup.”