Mr. Lexxus Walker is the new band director at Hickory Ridge Middle School here in the Hickory Hill area of Memphis. Not only is he the new band director, this is also his first year in the education field. During his first week or so he experienced a few difficulties to say the least. Not only is he fresh out of college, he has a “youthful appearance,” so the first thing he had to do was to make the student body realize he is not a student. That is a problem with many new teachers have who teach on the high school level – it is a struggle within itself.
The next thing he had to do was to gain the trust of the students. Many teachers approach this in different ways. A combination of his unorthodox methods, humorous anecdotes and generous amounts of encouragement was the breath of fresh air that the students needed. He developed a rapport with the students and they were beginning to let their guard down.
In the ideal band world, everyone has the necessary equipment (mouthpieces, drumsticks, etc.) on time and every student has an available instrument. Mr. Walker quickly learned that this ideal place does not exist. He began teaching basic music theory to his students and we tag-teamed the lessons to make sure everyone was on the same page. Students started getting the necessary materials and they started playing in class.
I told him early in the semester that by mid-October if he stayed consistent with what he was doing, there would be no denying that Hickory Ridge Middle School was “his band program.” I told him stories of my previous teaching experience and ways I knew the students trusted me and were truly paying attention to me. One example was that time I caught a student doing an impression of me — and it was “painfully accurate” to say the least! I think I laughed about it for about five minutes.
Fast forward to the first week in October. We were standing in the hallway discussing what the students were focusing on that week so I could make sure we were on the same page. While we were meeting, some of the students were talking about one of the band practices from the previous week. Then one of the students started doing an impression of Mr. Walker. All we heard was “Mr. Walker said…” followed by laughter. “Then he…” followed by more laughter. The child had his mannerisms and phrases down as if he was preparing for a stand-up comedy show. We both laughed loudly walking into the band room, and the best thing about it was – the students had their instruments together and were ready to play.
I looked at him and said, “This is your program now, sir. They’ll do anything you tell them.” Since that day the students have made growth above and beyond expectation. I am extremely proud of both Mr. Walker and the band students of Hickory Ridge Middle School.
Gerald Morgan is a musician, singer-songwriter, actor and former Shelby County Schools music educator. Born and raised in Memphis, he graduated from Kirby High School in 2004 and continued his education at Jackson State University, receiving a BME in Music Education and Jazz Education in 2009. Since then Gerald has taught music at the elementary, middle and high school level.