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Publish Date: 2/13/2007

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Lacie Tarver, a freshman at Skyline High School in Longmont, races around her social studies class with a cowbell to get her fellow students motivated for learning on Friday. Teacher Jon Glasser says “Cowbell Friday” is a good way to bring back a passion for learning. Times-Call/Jill P. Mott

Cowbell before books
Skyline teacher rouses students with musical mischief

 LONGMONT — Shortly after the regular school bell echoes through the halls at Skyline High on Friday mornings, a different kind of bell rings in the school day.

Cowbell Friday is a pop culture-influenced, five-minute pep rally in social studies teacher Jon Glasser’s class.

“It’s not too far into our instructional time, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Cowbell Fridays are a chance to shake the cobwebs off the brain and get students enthused about learning or at the least to be in school, Glasser said.

Students can perform a ditty — a chance to get their quick shot at “American Idol”-esque fame, he said. Then, following Glasser’s leads, the students pound their hands on their desks.

Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom.

“What day is it?” Glasser finally yells.

“Friday!” the freshmen yell back.

With that, freshman Lacie Tarver begins her weekly task to shake the cowbell as she runs a few times around the classroom. Sometimes on her sprints, Tarver encounters obstacles — mischievous sophomores from across the hall or paper balls thrown her way. She’s willing to risk it.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “We get to wake up for the rest of the day.”

The weekly cowbell ritual originated last year when Glasser was trying to motivate his seniors to get excited about learning.

“Fridays are so hard. It feels like the first day of the weekend,” he said. “This was a way to get them going and get passion for learning.”

On Friday mornings, Glasser would pull out a guitar or let a student sing a ditty or two. Then someone suggested adding a cowbell, and the official name for Glasser’s antics stuck.

For those uninformed in pop culture, a “Behind the Music” parody from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” featured guest actor Christopher Walken, who played a producer insisting that “more cowbell” was the key to making Blue Oyster Cult’s song “Don't Fear the Reaper” a success.

Glasser, too, feels that the cowbell — which was donated by a senior last year — can bring a positive vibe into his classroom.

“Especially for the ninth-graders, this is a way for them to buy into Skyline, and that this is not the same old world history class,” he said. “When there’s no Cowbell Friday, the kids don’t know what to do. They feel kind of let down. It started off as a joke, but it’s something now the kids want and participate in.”

Other teachers and older students show up at Glasser’s room, too, to cheer on Cowbell Fridays.

“It’s exciting to come to class. Better than skipping it. It’s a good way to end the week,” said senior Cameron Crawford, 18, who sat in on guitar during a recent Cowbell Friday.

“I’ve looked into other classrooms,” social studies teacher Katie Strock said, “and you can see kids smiling while they’re at their desks because they hear it going on. This is a positive thing that affects the other grades.”

Glasser said even he has learned some things along the way.

“We tried Tambourine Tuesdays and Maracas Mondays, but they didn’t have the same spice as Friday’s big blowout,” he said.

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at msidwell@times-call.com.

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