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July 20, 2015


Every Child Has . . .

by susano49

Albert Cullum was ahead of his time. He taught 5th grade in the 1960’s, rejecting Dick and Jane in favor of Shakespeare and Sophocles. Al’s approach to each subject was child driven. His vehicle was imagination. He engaged every student in his classroom with imaginative ‘games.’ Al was an equal opportunity teacher, offering success to every child, no matter their gender, skin color or learning style.   He
found the fun in learning geography, math, reading and more.

The class drew a map of the United States on the playground in chalk. Do you remember drawing on your driveway or sidewalk with chalk? The students then swam down the Mississippi River naming the different states along the way. They built Pike’s Peak in the classroom out of folding chairs that of course eventually came crashing down. Al divided the class into Old English spelling teams. (Together Everyone Achieves More) When a team member spelled his word correctly, he could bow and be ‘knighted’ by the King. A misspelled word meant that when he knelt down the crown was quickly dashed from his head. Kids loved it and studied hard so their spelling team could win.

I’m equally grateful and amazed that his classes were filmed. When I heard Mr. Cullum say, “Every child has a success level. Find it.,” I knew I had to start taking notes and watch him over and over again. We all have students who can’t feel rhythm, have trouble learning notes, or can’t play a musical phrase. But we can reach them – sooner or later – through enjoying the process. When our music has a group of slurred notes, we get up and move around the room in large graceful movements saying “le – ga – to” connecting the syllables. Then we tiptoe about saying “sta. cca. to” with the dramatic separation of syllables. And we can tiptoe slowly too. You have kids that think staccato means short and fast, don’t you?

Al can be seen in the PBS Independent Lens series “A Touch of Greatness” at their website. Be inspired and motivated by Mr. Cullum to give the gift of success to every one of your students! Find it!

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Jodie
    Dec 4 2015

    Mr. Cullum’s method sounds a bit like Virginia Grissoms Piano police. Good teachers are all around us. They are the quiet types that don’t make a splash but who use innovation and a love for students to guide their path.


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