The Black Belt: Eluded in 4th grade / Mastered in 12th grade

by Cherie Herring on January 29, 2014 · 8 comments

in CPHMusic

The Black Belt: Eluded in 4th grade / Mastered in 12th grade

This is my 12th year at the same school – twelve years of teaching Recorder Karate to fourth graders. Every senior has to give a brief speech, and this is the first year I’ve ever had a senior talk about how the elusive black belt haunted him since fourth grade. Here is the text of a speech by Alex, a senior this year.

I have a confession to make.
This has been something that has burdened me for mine years and I feel that I need to get this off my chest. I never received my black belt in fourth grade.
Now, for those of you who were not here in fourth grade, getting beads and belts from our music teacher, Mrs. Herring, was a BIG DEAL. The problem for me was that I was not particularly good at playing the recorder. But like all of the other nine-year olds in the class. I wanted my beads and  black belt for the recorder in fourth grade.
This has been something I have thought about many times since fourth grade, and it has always stuck with me. For a while, I tried to convince myself that it was not such a big deal. Perhaps it did not matter that I never received that elusive black belt. I thought, “Why do we even play the recorder?” I get that it teaches us to 
play instruments at a young age, but all it ends up doing is making us convince our parents to buy us two guitars and an amplifier, and then decide we really don’t like the guitar after all… or was that just me?
Black BEltSeriously though, when would the recorder have a real life application? No one grows up to be a professional recorder player. All it really even is, is a tube with holes that you blow into which produces a fairly unpleasant noise. Well, technically, Wikipedia would define it as a woodwind musical instrument of the family know as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes – whistle-like instruments which include the tin whistle. None of which sound like it will make a guy really popular in a college dorm.
But I quickly left this foolish belief that the recorder is insignificant in our lives. The recorder teaches us some great values and morals that we should all live by. The recorder teaches us discipline. I would stay up countless hours at night practicing my pitch until I could play “Hot Cross Buns” without looking at the notes. It also teaches us honesty. I remember actually stealing some of the cooler colored beads to put on my red necklace so that I could look cooler in front of m friends. At the time, this method of stealing the beads proved to be wise, in that my fourth grade street cred shot up, and the amount of my friends doubled… to like four. But looking back on this, I realize how bad what I had done really is. Stealing is wrong and you should not do it. So I would like to publicly apologize to Mrs. Herring for taking the coolest beads from the bin that someone else who worked harder and practiced more house than I did deserved.
Over my ten years at Hammond, I have accomplished many things that I will look back on fondly. I graduated Middle School with high honors; I finally beat Cardinal Newman in soccer; I survived Mrs. Bailey’s tenth grade math class; and one year I even transferred half way through the year from Drama Tech to dance, where I got to display my dance moves to the entire middle school. But the one thing that has always haunted me was not getting that black belt in fourth grade music class and I have decided that I do not want to look back on my time at Hammond with a sense of regret. So, I am going to ask our fourth grade music teacher, Mrs. Herring, to join me on stage so I can finally earn that black belt in front of all my peers.

Alex dropped by my music room two weeks ago to ask if I would help him pass his black belt for his senior speech. I quickly made and sent him a refresher/crash lesson on “Ode to Joy” and waited for the performance. With nerves of steel and guts as large as Texas, Alex spoke, played, and won the hearts of all who listened. He earned his Black Belt.

How cool is that?!!

Black BeltAlex’s goal was a dream with a deadline. Eluded in 4th grade / Mastered in 12th grade.

We know that “Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.” - Scott Hayden

We’ve been snowed in for two days…. I can’t wait to get back to teaching.

How about you?

Cherie Web signature 11

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Schenbeck Riley January 29, 2014 at 10:56 PM

I absolutely love this! Students like this are what makes teaching the best job in the world. Put this in your “having a rough day” file for a guaranteed pick-me-up. Thanks for sharing, Cherie! And congratulations to Alex for his perseverance!


Nell January 30, 2014 at 8:16 AM

Awesome… :)


Stephanie Jones January 30, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Great post Cherie!


Cherie Herring January 30, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Thank you, Stephanie!


Chris January 30, 2014 at 9:38 AM

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to read this. Well done, teach!


Cherie Herring February 2, 2014 at 6:46 PM

Thank you, Chris!


Tonie February 5, 2014 at 8:53 PM

I LOVE this post! We can only hope that our students remember what they have done in our little fourth grade music class when they move on to the “big house” – the High School, that is – and then on into their busy lives.

I love the information you shared on flipping your recorder class. I would love to try this and hope that when I poll my students to see if they have access to technology at home…that many of them do! Your wikispaces page is so well done! How did you get that cool looking notebook on the page? As a matter of fact…how do you change the background? Also, how did you go about adding the accompaniment files to the pages? When I tried to do this the sound files worked fine on my desktop but were not accessible on the ipad. Are there any wikispaces tutorials around that may help me set up one of my own?

Thanks for sharing!


Cherie Herring February 5, 2014 at 9:12 PM

Hi Tonie! thanks so much for the comment and the questions. Setting up the Wiki felt very much like setting up my old Blogger site. To access all of the various backgrounds, go to the Dashboard and then to settings. Under “Look and Feel” there are themes you can choose.
Like you, I was never able to get the accomp. files to play on my ipad using the wiki settings. I did a search for a “widget” for embedding mp3 files and found a couple that would work. I need to do a post on this, I can tell! I copied the embed code and saved it to my little notepad app on my computer. That mp3 Widget code lives on my desktop. Anytime I need to embed an mp3 file, I use the code. The problem, Tonie, is that I can’t remember where I found the widget to give you the url. ugh! I will keep looking! Until then, here is the code:

I tried pasting it here, but it wouldn’t let me. Here is the link to the code.

Copy this code and paste into your notepad and save it on your desktop. I store all of my music and files in my dropbox so I insert the url of the mp3 file and copy the entire code. Then I go to my wiki page > edit> click on the WIDGET icon > other HTML > paste the code in the empty box.

It might sound complicated, but it truly isn’t.

I’ll try to post more info asap. Please let me know if I can help you get started on your wiki. As with anything else… just start pushing buttons and you’ll find your way around quickly.



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