Name: Richard Lawton

Birthday: April 18

College: New York University, California State University Los Angeles

Favorite Color: Green

Currently Reading: “The Unwinding,”  by George Packer

Favorite Food: All

Favorite Songs:

  1. 1.“Angel Band” by Ralph Stanley

  2. 2.“Fell on Black Days” by Soundgarden

  3. 3.“Stay” by David Bowie

My links:

  1. Wonderland School Website

  2. Wonderland Music Blog

  3. Los Angeles Chapter AOSA

  4. California Music Educators Association

My Teaching Philosophy

Additional articles on teaching by me:

“Licks, Grooves and Jams: Using a Blues Improvisation Approach to Teach Recorder,” Orff Echo, Spring 2011.  To read the full article click LicksGroovesJamsOrffEchoSpring2011.pdf

“Jingle, Jangle, Jingle: Using Cowboy Ballads to Teach Social Studies and Language Arts,” Orff Echo, Summer 2013.  To read the full article click JingleJangleJingleOrffEchoSummer2013.pdf

“A Blog’s in my Classroom and My Classroom’s on a Blog,” Reverberations, Fall 2013.  To read the full article click ABloginmyClassroomReverberationsFall2013.pdf

“The Common Core has Arrived; Now What to Do With It? “ CMEA Magazine, Fall 2013.  To read the full article click CommonCoreArrivedCMEAFall2013.pdf

“Making Ourselves Indispensable; Community Building as a Strategy for Insuring Success in the Elementary School General Music Program,” CMEA Magazine, Spring 2014.  To read the full article click MakingOurselvesIndispensableCMEASpring2014.pdf

“Process vs. Product - Calibrating General Music Instructional Goals,” CMEA Magazine, Fall 2014.  To read the full article click ProcessvsProductCMEAFall2014.pdf

“You Say Tomato; Differences and Similarities in General Music Instruction Among Orff, Kodály, and Dalcroze,” CMEA Magazine, Winter 2014.  To read the full article click YouSayTomatoCMEAWinter2014.pdf

“Teach Your Children Bluegrass: Mining Wonderland Avenue School’s Laurel Canyon Roots for Repertoire,” Orff Echo, Summer 2015.  To read the full article click TeachYourChildrenBluegrassOrffEchoSummer2015.pdf

“Setting a Better Table: How Can CMEA More Effectively Serve the Needs of General Music Teachers?” CMEA Magazine, Summer 2015.  To read the full article click SettingABetterTableCMEASummer2015.pdf

“Do You Have Ukes in Your Toolbox?” CMEA Magazine, Fall 2o15.  To read the full article click DoYouHaveUkesinYourToolboxCMEAFall2015.pdf

“Getting A Good Groove On: Using Fundamental Blues Elements in General Music Class.”  CMEA Magazine, Winter 2016.  To read the full article click GettingAGoodGrooveOnCMEAWinter2016.pdf

“Elementary Music Education: Right for Every Child and the Right of Every Child.”  CMEA Magazine, Summer 2016.  To read the full article click RightForEveryChildCMEASummer2016.pdf

When I started at Third Street, I also worked as a substitute classroom teacher for LAUSD to acquire more teaching experience and help make ends meet. In general my assignments were in Title I schools – schools that take federal money (Third Street and Wonderland are non-Title I). Working as a visiting arts teacher at two affluent schools and as a day to day sub at less affluent ones has given me a few ideas about what ought to be priorities in urban education.

  1. 1.Experiential education is a better way for children to learn -- the Orff-Schulwerk approach I use encourages learning through the experience of making music (for more information, click on “What is Orff?”).  I have also experimented with having my students fabricate their own instruments to further enhance their connection to what they are learning. The depth of understanding they achieve and the knowledge they retain even a year later leads me to conclude that an experiential approach makes a deeper, more lasting impression.

  1. 2.Misbehavior that impacts on classroom management is usually the result of a lack of classroom readiness skills.  I  have most often observed that kids who act up in class, do so because they don’t understand what is expected of them, because they cannot assimilate what is being taught or because they do not trust the process of learning enough to stay engaged.  One of a good teacher’s primary responsibilities is to help students develop these skills, and that begins with an assumption that all students want to and can do well.

  1. 3.Schools that are strongly tied to the community perform better – there appears to be a correlation between schools that are strongly identified with their neighborhood and student performance. As John Dewey said, “there is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community and communication” (Dewey, Democracy and Education, 1916). This is a connection individual schools should work harder to foster.

  1. 4.A systematic standards-based approach produces better test scores but does not engender retention or lifelong learning.  Test scores are just one indicator of student progress.  Schools need to also ask what kind of thinkers and contributors do they want to produce?  And teachers need to focus on their students not as test-takers, but as individuals whose potential - whatever that may be -- must be developed to its fullest.

To these four ideas I would add a fifth unifying belief – that it is the small moments of human connectedness between teachers and students that can make all the difference. When I think about my own public school experiences, it is these moments, not anything curricular, that stand out. I vividly recall the day my elementary music teacher, Gary Smith, having noticed my interest in the school piano, gave me a recorder to try. Years later when it was suggested that I consider going to a trade school (my grades were terrible), I remember what it meant to me when my advisor and English teacher, Joe Addochio, said “no way; he’s going to college.”

Would I have gone to college or developed my love of music without Mr. Addochio or Mr. Smith? Maybe. Thanks to their interest and insight, I didn’t have to find another way.

Eleven years ago during a slow-down in my career as a TV and movie writer I began to teach music on a volunteer basis at Third Street School, the Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school my daughters were attending. Music has always been a passion of mine, and I was disappointed there was so little in the way of music education at Third Street.

In 2006 I started a general music program at Third Street that included all students in all grade levels. Then, in 2009, I was invited to join the staff at Wonderland Avenue School, another LAUSD elementary school located in the Hollywood Hills.  The job at Wonderland became a full-time position in 2013.  Meanwhile, seeing the need to advocate for what was becoming my profession, I joined the board of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Orff Schulwerk Association in 2011, and this year became the General Music Rep for the California Music Educators Association.

Along the way I have discovered a passion equal to my passion for music, and that is teaching.  In 20 years in Hollywood I found many opportunities to make money but very few to make a difference. One thing I can say for certain about teaching is that you make a tangible difference every day.