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What Music Do Teachers Listen to so They Can Get Pumped for School?

We asked a bunch of teachers what their before-class pump-up jams are. From metal to meditative chants, these are the songs they picked.

by Noisey Staff
10 September 2015, 3:26pm


Image by Paul Raffaele

There's nothing quite like a handful of freshly sharpened number two pencils or the thrill of possibility that comes with getting a locker assignment next to a formerly distant crush. You can't beat the feeling of stepping into the hallways of your shool for a new year of discovery and hijinks. But it takes all of about two days before going back to school loses its excitement and you settle in for a yearlong slog of test-taking and homework assignments. We've all been there. And no one's more familiar with it than the teachers themselves, who year in and year out fight the noble fight of making school cool—or at least tolerable. They're the ones who endure your blatant attempts at texting under your desk, the ones who put up with your constant talking, the ones who have to hear the excuses about how your computer crashed at midnight last night and you lost all your work. If you think going back to school is a mental battle for you, the student, imagine what it takes for the teachers, who have to put up with your shit.

Since teachers are saints who have selflessly devoted themselves to bettering society, they would never actually complain, of course. In fact, the overwhelming majority of them are genuinely enthusiastic about helping their students succeed in an environment that would reduce most normal people to hopeless whimpering. You have to hand it to the teachers of the world. But it still takes guts to get out there every day, and that's where music comes in. Just as athletes listen to inspirational music to get pumped before games, teachers have their songs they listen to to get ready for the day ahead. In honor of the teachers putting it all on the line this school year, we asked a bunch of them what music they listen to when they're getting in the zone to facilitate the shit out of some learning.

Patrick, 11th grade English Language Arts

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
"Hell You Talmbout" by Janelle Monae

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
Inspiration to make a change in society, and authentic and powerful connections to literature, history, and critical consciousness. The best songs can be used in the classroom to engage students!

Amanda, 10th and 11th grade Spanish and 9th-11th grade ESL

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
“Can't Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
I really like the beat (I usually embarrass myself by dancing on the bus), and the message is good. “The ceiling can't hold us.” And this line: “Nah I never ever did it for a throne / That validation comes from giving it back to the people.”

Gaia, 9th grade Social Studies

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
Kirtan (Hindu chanting)

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
Very relaxing, meditative, soothing, also positive and upbeat. Stays in my head so I'm humming it all day and feeling positive and connected to spirit.

Liz, K-5 Music and Chorus and High School Marching Band

I love being a teacher, and I love being a musician. I feel so lucky to be doing both as a profession, and love sharing my thoughts on teaching and my experiences as a younger, working, female musician in a male-dominated scene.

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
Anything off of Career Suicide by A Wilhelm Scream

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
The title sounds off-putting, but the record shreds. It is strong from start to finish and represents passion and drive. As a teacher, if you are not passionate about your subject area and quick to give up on your students or yourself, then you're in the wrong profession. Teaching is so crucial, and it can be so exhausting. But this record fuels the motivation to inspire and never back down... for the kids, and for the love of music.

Gina, 9th grade Physics

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
Bachata

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
It puts a bounce in my step. I roll in to school exhausted most days. Hearing music that makes me want to dance helps me feel more alive and ready to hustle in the classroom.

Jim, 10th-12th grade Physics, AP Physics, and Chemistry

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
I’ve been listening to Code Orange's I Am King on the way to work a lot lately, so my pump up song has got to be “Dreams in Inertia.”

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
I have an hour-long drive to work, and “Dreams in Inertia” is sort of the laid back song on that record. It reminds me of the music I might've been listening to back when I was actually in high school. It's got a 90s feel, so maybe it puts me in the right mental state to identify with teens? I don't know. Then “Unclean Spirit” comes on and I try not to wreck the car.

Sam, UK Levels 3-5 Film Studies and Film and TV Production

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio feat. L.V.

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
It reminds me of the film that inspired me to become a teacher, and of why I got into teaching in the first place—to make a difference. Plus because I’m the kinda G that little homies want to be like.

Marisa, 11th grade American Literature

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
It's upbeat and always puts me in a great mood. Makes me feel like anything is possible and that I can get these kids to accomplish whatever they want.

Jeffrey, 5th grade English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
My commute to school is long and starts early. Because of that I listen to a variety of music to get me ready for the day. Most of the music is more chill in the morning commute and harder in the afternoon. I'm a huge Thrice fan, and I really enjoy their acoustic versions. Particularly “Come All You Weary.”

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
“Come All You Weary” sets me up for the day because it relaxes my soul and provides me peace. Calmness and peace is important to start the day when you work with 5th graders. A relaxed and calm teacher provides a relaxing setting for his students. That alone creates a healthy environment which will lead to academic growth.

Dave, 11th and 12th grade Physics, AP Physics, and Astronomy

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
I have about a 20-mile commute each way, so I listen to a ton of music in the car. Mostly, I concentrate on listening to new releases, as I write for various online webzines, but, if I’m going to listen to something that has been out for awhile, I tend to listen to classics during the morning commute. It’s not necessarily one particular album or genre that “gets me going”, but just to spend some quality time with an old favorite brings a smile.

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
I’m an expert in my field as a physics and astronomy teacher with 20 years experience. I have attained the highest level of national certification in my profession to go along with a Master’s Degree in physics. So music is not really necessary to get me focused on the day’s tasks. But, like for many of us, listening to metal provides an emotional outlet for dealing with the normal, everyday stresses of working for a living. However, I also use my passion for metal to connect with students that are also fans of the music. Some of these students may feel disconnected from their peers and with school, in general. Metal becomes another tool to utilize in encouraging and motivating students. If I can show students that it’s okay to not necessarily be a part of the in crowd and still be successful in school and in life, then so much the better for all of us.

Paul, 9th and 10th grade English

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
Heart of a Warrior” by Dizzee Rascal. This tends to change based on the school year, but for this one, I chose that song.

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
The song is a reminder that every day I have a mission to educate young minds. Even when things get bad, I have to power through and do what I can.

Paul, High School World History

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
It varies, but lately it's been either "Chicago Falcon" by the Budos Band or "Guerilla Radio" by Rage Against the Machine.

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
I teach high school World History, which sometimes feels like a subversive subject because we get to step outside of the super patriotic, nationalistic tendencies of historical study here in the US and really examine the rest of the world and our country through an objective lens, which isn't always a pretty view. On a near daily basis, I teach kids to question their world instead of blindly accepting. In an era when social media rules supreme in their lives, and actual, objective news coverage is scarce, that feels dangerous sometimes, so I typically pick harder music to jam to on my walk to work.

Neil, retired 8th and 10th grade History

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
The Chieftains, Enya, anything Celt.

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
It’s hero music! “MacAllistrum's March,” for instance.

Erik, 11th grade English and Beginning Drama

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
I don't start the day with a pump up song, I just listen to different songs throughout the day. Lately I love Werid Al Yankovic's "Word Crimes" for English, but in terms of what keeps me humming along doing the job on a day-to-day basis, I have to admit to Snow Patrol, U2, The Killers, and the Smallville Complete Soundtrack. However, it was Weird Al Yankovic with my 7th and 8th grade students that started the whole thing!

Joe, 4th and 5th grade Special Education

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
“Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
There are many teaching strategies, each effective and challenging in their own right. It also helps to remind me that I can set the pace and run the room in the best way for my students, despite what anyone expects or suggests. Plus, this jam just get me happy and motivated for a job that can at times be very taxing.

Jenny, 9th and 10th grade ESL

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
"Flamboyant" by Big L

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
I don't know if it's the beat, the tooty flute, or the abundant self-praise, but this song makes me feel excited about putting on some of the most unflattering garments available to go teach high school to people who are learning English. This album dropped when I was a junior or senior, so it's kind of a full circle reminder of what it was like to be in high school and have to deal with corny adults who listen to wack music. Oh wait...

Leah, Media Specialist, grades 6-12

What is your go-to pump-up jam that gets you ready for a day of school?
I like “Hall of Fame” by the Script and “Growing Up” by Macklemore.

What about it sets you up for a day of encouraging academic success?
It reminds me that I am an important part of the community that is required to raise and nurture young people, and that they are pure potential as teens.

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