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This video of Chicago teachers and students singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ gives us joy

Courtesy of YouTube

The video features wigs, sunglasses, and spirited falsettos; dance breaks, piano riffs, and even a principal hitting a high note.

Compiled by a Nicholas Senn High School journalism teacher using a spreadsheet, mobile phone videos, and editing software, the video shows more than a dozen teachers and students singing “Sennhemian Rhapsody” — a riff on the 1975 song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It has rapidly made the rounds on social media in Chicago, an example of how schools are still trying to build community despite strict stay-at-home orders, school closures, device shortages, and districtwide rules that, in the district of 355,100 students, strictly govern how teachers communicate with students.

Michael Cullinane, the journalism teacher, said he wanted to do something “fun and irreverent” that would appeal to the diverse group of students he teaches at the Edgewater high school.

“I’m a big advocate for, in times of difficulty, trying to keep community at the forefront,” said Cullinane, who is juggling work and child care of two children under 4 during the stay-at-home order. He wanted to do something for his school community that would bridge students and teachers, and he had observed low student participation in online activities during the first week of school.

Video — which people are watching at home through sites like Netflix — seemed like the right medium to try to get the attention of students. He picked “Bohemian Rhapsody,” typed out the Queen song line-by-line on a spreadsheet, and sent it around to his journalism students and the Senn faculty on a Friday. He asked each volunteer to record a video of them performing a line from the song, then stitched together the videos using Adobe Premiere Pro software, and had the video on YouTube by Monday.

It took off. Cullinane, whose students program a school “Senn TV” channel, said it has inspired him to try other video projects and to think about how he could stage a remote prom — or even, if school closures span longer than April 20 — a remote graduation.

“Our students have been through the wringer this year,” he said, referencing a school year that saw an 11-day teachers strike in the fall, contentious student protests over racial discrimination claims in the winter, and now a cancellation of classes that threatens to stretch toward summer. “We’re just trying to keep them motivated and positive.”

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