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In April 2018, I had a chance to travel from my home on the eastern cost of China (Hangzhou) to a city called Jishou in the rural central Chinese province of Hunan. There I visited my friend Anna who was finishing up her two-year English teaching contract at Jishou Normal University, a small non-accredited college in which students are required to learn English to complete their two-year degrees. Most, however, aren’t particularly interested in mastering the language, but because their city is practically a “village” by Chinese standards with a population of “only” 300,000, there is one thing all residents of the city find fascinating: foreigners. Anna was one of two foreign teachers this past year at Jishou Normal University, and because she was young, tall, and red-haired, she attracted attention everywhere she went. This served her particularly well in the classroom, as her students recognized the need to improve their English to better communicate with their teacher, whose experiences in places so unfamiliar to them (born in Florida, completed her degree in New Orleans, Louisiana) she could only discuss in English as she had no background in Mandarin Chinese. As she and I sat on a bench outside one of her classrooms, I asked her how she was able to motivate her students, even the ones who as soon as they finished their schooling would return to their families’ farms, never to use the English they had spent learning for two years again. She explained that a few of her most successful lessons had been centered around the use of songs in the classroom: not only did students find music and music videos to be a welcome break from learning about grammar structures or playing vocabulary games, but they also found them to serve as windows into cultures vastly different from theirs. One of the first questions I asked Anna when I arrived was whether it would be ok for me to shadow her while she was teaching her classes. To my surprise, my “shadowing,” was not only welcome, but would help in keeping the students interested—a new “teacher” who’d help facilitate the lesson? “They’re used to me after two years, but with you around, they’ll all be on their best behavior to impress you!” she exclaimed. For the two lessons I was able to shadow with Anna, she designed a class centered on learning about American culture through music. She split the classes into groups of three and passed out the lyrics of two songs “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha (feat. Florida Georgia Line) and “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z (feat. Alicia Keys). From looking at these lyric sheets, the students were tasked with identifying American icons (singers, sports teams), values (independence, freedom), symbols (the American flag, jeans, the Empire State Building), and rituals (driving) based on definitions they’d talked about during the preceding week’s classes. While these elements were a bit more obvious in the country song “Meant to Be,” they struggled a bit more with references to people like “DeNiro” or the “Knicks and Nets” in the hip-hop song “Empire State Building,” so Anna and I visited each of the groups, giving them hints to push them in the right direction. After they had identified the icons, values, symbols, and rituals, the students were invited to share what they had found in front of the rest of the class and then guess which genre their song could be classified as. Some of the groups struggled with identifying their song as either country or hip hop, but exceled at Anna’s task of predicting what sort of images the music video might include. One young woman predicted for “Meant to Be” that a man would be driving a car along a long road, and somewhere along the way, a woman would join him. Anna and I turned to each other and laughed. “That’s it,” she said, laughing, to the student who had predicted exactly what the music video would be. For the end of the class, we watched Anna’s pre-selected sections of the music videos to show them a bit about how American culture is reflected both through audio and visual elements. This was by far their favorite part of the class as the words on the page were brought to life on screen in front of them. I know that for older learners (late-teens to early 20s), music might not always be the most effective approach for teaching complex grammar structures and vocabulary. For their task of the week, however—to learn more about American culture—this was an ideal means of keeping students interested while also building cross-cultural understandings. To make things even better, it wasn’t just one American teaching the class, but one American teaching (Anna) and another American visitor (me) facilitating. Anna and I shared a bit about our own experiences as Americans after class with the students who stayed behind asking for recommendations of music that might further their understanding of where we come from. For me, this was a class on how music can be a powerful tool for learning in the classroom when utilized properly: with a clear purpose and learning objectives explicitly identified.