Music Teachers Should Not Do Make Up Lessons

Here is a very well written article articulating why private music teachers should not be expected to make up missed lessons.

http://ottawasuzukistrings.ca/makeuplessons/

Manifesto

The Oxford Dictionary defines Inclusion as: “1. The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure; 1.1 A person or thing that is included in the whole”[1]. In order to state my intentions of inclusion within my classroom setting I have created a manifesto to clearly mark the various points of inclusion that I believe to be important in every classroom in every school, why I believe they are important and how I will implement them into my classroom and teaching practice.

All students must be included and have the right to learn in a positive learning environment, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental abilities or disabilities. It is the responsibility of teachers to follow the guidelines of the MELS competencies and in this instance, MELS competency 7, “To adapt his or her teaching to the needs and characteristics of students with learning disabilities, social maladjustments or handicaps”.

Within my classroom and learning environment, I will ensure that all students feel that they are in a safe and respected environment that will promote learning on all levels and will make every effort to accommodate the various needs of all students. By providing opportunities for socialization within different peer groups, all students have an equal chance to make friends and learn from each other. I feel that it is important for students to socialize in order to gain appreciation and understand the differences of others, be able to learn from these differences and have mutual respect.

The learning environment is also a critical aspect of inclusion. All students must be able to participate in all aspects of learning, no matter their needs. Means of support for students with special needs will be provided, whether it is in the form of an aid or an environmental adjustment. If there are adaptations to the environment based on students needs, they will be addressed and made accordingly.

When planning field trips, they will be planned with every student in mind so that every student is able to participate and gain experiences from the field trip.

My teaching style is flexible and will be adjusted to meet the needs of every student in my class. Whether students are auditory, sensory, kinaesthetic, or visual learners, all learning styles will be addressed throughout the school year so that all students will have the opportunity to discover their personal leaning style and benefit in learning to the fullest extent.

The support of parents and families is encouraged in my classroom environment and I value input from parents when addressing individual students needs. I believe that the core values of inclusion are take seed at home and I will work with parents in order to create the most inclusive environment possible.

In order for positive learning to take place, it is essential to provide an inclusive and safe environment. To build community, promote self esteem and provide learning opportunities, no matter a students background or abilities, my classroom will provide an inclusive environment in which all students will have the opportunity to be leaders and work together as a cohesive unit.

[1] Inclusion. 2014. In oxforddictionaries.com

Retrieved September 30, 2014, from       http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/inclusion

Volunteering for QBA Honor Band Weekend

In volunteering for the Quebec Band Association’s Honor Band weekend on February 7, 2015, I was happy to be a part of what was clearly such a monumental weekend for young musicians. While I am usually seeing things from the teacher or the clinicians point of view, I felt I was given an even deeper insight into how things work behind the scenes at an Honor Band workshop and in how the organizers, who are music teachers themselves, implemented MELS competency 6, “To Plan, organize and supervise a class in such a way to promote students’ learning and social development”. As a result of the workshops being held on the weekend and at Vanier College, the organizers and school staff were required to cooperate with parents and the community Cégep in order to facilitate this learning experience for the music students. This is exemplified in MELS competency 9, “To cooperate with school staff, parents, partners in the community and students in pursuing the educational objectives of the school”.

I arrived at Vanier College at 8:15, slightly less awake then I wanted to be but thanks to the fact that there was coffee in the volunteer room, I managed to perk up. This made me realize a very important aspect if I am ever to run a band weekend, always have coffee for the volunteers. In fact, the women who arrived shortly after I did came with bagels, cream cheese, jam and an assortment of delicious snacks. They were kind enough to offer food and coffee to all the volunteers, band directors and clinicians who came early in the morning. No one would be going hungry this day.

In addition to the food that was available in the volunteer room, I was impressed as to how well organized the morning was. There were clear signs to show students where to go, denoted by Junior/Senior Band and instrument. In addition to the signs, there were a number of us who, as volunteers were asked to stand at the entrance and direct students to the proper room. I was assigned to help the Junior Honor Band clarinets into their sectional room and help the clinician with anything he needed. According to the sheet I was given I was even required to get the clinician “water” or anything asked for. As I am usually a clinician on these weekends, I knew for a fact that this would be unnecessary and unwanted attention for the clinician however I stuck around to get a feel just in case.

As the clarinets were in the clinic, I felt my time would be best spent listening to the workshop that was given to the Senior Band by the visiting conductor so I made my way to the auditorium. This workshop was highly recommended to me by a few of the organizers and apparently the conductor was excellent. During the workshop I was quite surprised to find that the level of the students’ performance was quite a bit below what I expected to hear from a Senior Honor band. I realize that I have been lucky enough to hear and work with some very high caliber honor bands such as Royal West but nonetheless I was surprised. I was also quite disappointed in the guest conductors’ workshop. I felt that most of the points he was making seemed to only confuse the students. For example, at one point during the workshop he began telling them that in this particular piece, 3/4 time was not actually 3/4 time. It was not that he was incorrect in the subject matter but the deliverance was very unclear, especially for students this age. This was the second time in a year I was witness to an incredibly confusing workshop given by a guest conductor. It is unfortunate for the students who have to try to make sense of what is being said but think it is good for me to see these types of workshops. Using what I witness, I can choose to tailor my teaching and conducting to be as clear as possible.

At the end of the morning I left feeling happy with the fact that I had volunteered for such a worthwhile event. The organization was incredible and despite the fact that I overheard some confusing details in the band workshop, I feel that this weekend was very helpful to the music students who participated. I am sure that by participating in honor band, these students will make lifelong friends and have experiences that they will remember forever. I am sure that many of these students will end up in university music programs and will remember the good they learned while spending time with other musicians and mentors.

Manipulation in the Media

Newspapers have historically manipulated stories to the advantage of the dominant side. The article entitled “Historical representations of aboriginal people in the Canadian news media” by Robert Harding places emphasis on this issue in the context of Indigenous people in Canada. Harding writes about how newspaper articles from the 1800’s manipulate the settler’s point of view against the Indigenous people in favor of the “white man”, the dominant race. He mentions that the Indigenous people were portrayed as “primitive and child like”. This is one of the senses of entitlement of a patriarchic society. It shows a paternalistic dominant culture “taking care” of minority groups. Those who are being taken care of are in turn, disempowered. In Samantha Nock’s article, “Being a Witness, the Importance of Protecting Indigenous Women’s Stories” she mentions that these women’s are often “homogenized”. That sex, drug addiction and poverty are the underlying factor in all cases of missing Indigenous women. While this may be true to an extent, every missing Indigenous woman is painted with the same paintbrush. Nock mentions in her article, “There is no room for Indigenous women’s stories to be told, to be honored, to be witnessed.”

In addition to portraying minority groups as “primitive and child like”, it is also common to portray the minority group as emotional. This gives us the excuse to treat them “savages” and suggests that if you are going to be “good” in society then you are only “good” if you fit into our language, our culture and our emotions. While growing up I was fascinated by Indigenous people. Looking back on it, I realize that actually self-educated by reading books about Indigenous people, watching movies and attending many cultural events. I am fortunate to have attended school with the Chief of the Blackfoot tribe’s sons and was exposed to their culture and arts. I feel that because of my experience I can read stories such as the ones mentioned in the articles with a point of view different from those who have not had my experience.

In accordance with the MELS competency “To act as a professional who is an inheritor, critic and interpreter of knowledge or culture when teaching students” I have learned that I will need to understand certain aspects of culture in order to teach it to my students professionally. It is my responsibility as a teacher to understand and interpret the media in such a way that I am not influenced by it’s manipulation and that I can in turn teach my students how to be aware of potential issues in news and media. I also feel that MELS competency “To plan, organize and supervise a class in such a way as to promote students’ learning and social development” applies in this situation as well. It is important to discuss these issues as a class, to supervise the discussion so that all viewpoints are heard and promote the students’ learning about these important issues of our time.

I believe that this information is a very good reminder of the way that we must interpret the media in our time. Though one article deals with news written in the 1800’s, there are many current events such as the crisis in the Middle East that is often misrepresented in the media today. If we think that racism is being abolished and that everyone is accepting now, that is simply not true. It is important to educate our students on this fact and make them aware of potential manipulation in media and in life.

Race in the Classroom

In reading the article by Jane Bolgatz, “Talking Race in the Classroom”, she lists a number of ways students will deflect school discussions from talking about the subject of race. For example, students will often backpedal on their statements or use diversions such as humour and avoidance. Teachers have been known to also use deflection strategies as ways of avoiding awkward subjects in the classroom whether the issue personally affects us or whether we do not want to come off as “politically incorrect”. It is fundamentally important to talk about these difficult subjects in the classroom because if we do not talk about them, no change will be affected.

We might think that race is not such a big issue today as it once was however in the day of technology and our overall connectedness, it is even more important to be aware of such issues. A person might inadvertently write something controversial on their Facebook page and this can turn into a major racial issue. Politicians say things and instead of being heard by one person, that conversation is recorded and placed on YouTube for the world to see. It is extremely important that students are made aware of their actions and cognisant of the change that can happen by talking about issues or the consequences of staying silent.

Growing up I went to catholic school, where most students were caucasian and catholic. There was not a lot of racism that occurred in the school, or that I was witness to. I also do not remember having open discussions about racism in our classrooms. This could have been due to the fact that our teachers had a very good handle on the situation and dealt with the problems at the source. I do however realize that this is not the case in many schools and that students are often subjected to the issue of racism at school. This is where we must have discussion about such incidents.

There are a number of strategies that teachers can use to let students know that it is ok to talk about difficult subjects without either party using deflection tactics. Teachers can vary the size of the discussion and vary the pace of the discussion. These two aspects can inhibit participation in discussions and allow for students diversion tactics. Instead of discussing issues in large groups, students can discuss in smaller groups with the teacher supervising each group. Bolgatz mentions that when discussions get heated, students should be asked to pause to reflect through writing or visual arts. This can be a great strategy for pace variance as well because students with shorter attention spans will be able to work on various projects. The concentration may move to another project but the subject will stay the same.

According to the MELS Professional Competencies for teachers, competency number one is: “to act as a professional who is inheritor, critic and interpreter of knowledge or culture when teaching students.” Teachers must be able to articulate in the culture of the students and be able to mitigate a discussion of racism in the classroom and while it may cause some uncomfortability or distress, it is the teachers responsibility to ensure that they are knowledgeable about the issues at hand and how to guide a discussion. A sub-point of competency number one is that teachers will “transform the classroom into a cultural base open to a range of different viewpoints within a common space”. Students should be allowed to have an opinion on the matter of race and be allowed to share their point of view. This will allow everyone to share their feelings and allow open discussion to be generated.

I feel that it is highly important to discuss these issues with our students. They cannot be issues that are swept under the rug and ignored but rather should be brought forth. If a student is struggling with the issue of racism, it should be dealt with right away. The only way that we can address issues like this is to talk about them. In open classroom discussions, when students feel safe, all points of view can be accepted and this is where change can begin to occur.

 

 

Diversity in the Classroom

Diversity in the classroom is a major issue in education today. Although many schools in Canada profess to be multicultural and accepting, this is not always how students and teachers might feel they are viewed. Those from different cultures and different countries face multiple challenges in our education system and society.

In reading the article entitled “Swimming against the mainstream: Examining cultural assumptions in the classroom” by Kristy Garcia, I am quite fascinated in the way she describes the associations that she has about being a Mexican-American student in a Teacher Education program. I had never imagined that someone of Mexican-American descent would have stereotypes associated with themselves for going into a teacher education program. Sitting here in my classroom at McGill I can’t help but notice that there are students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds in the same classroom. Do these students all feel the same pressures as described in the articles by Garcia?

In contrast to the article by Garcia in which she described societal pressure and values, Korean student Grace MyHyun Bang writes about the more internal feelings of cultural stereotypes in her article “Watching Words and Managing Multiple Identities”. I was struck by the way she described the letter from her father, written in English, encouraging her to “finish her hard diploma”. In North America there are no doubt cultural stereotypes when it comes to English teachers and it is a huge step for someone of Korean descent to engage in a program to become an English teacher.

I have been very fortunate to spend my education in schools and programs that are multicultural, with students of all races and ethnic backgrounds. I have not had to personally deal with issues that are apparent to students such as Garcia and MyHyun Bang. I am sure that there are many other students in my situation, who do not see cultural stereotypes as apparently. It is important for those who deal with these issues to write about them and equally important for us who do not face stereotypes and racial issues to read about it in order to educate ourselves about the possibility of this occurring in our schools and to those around us. As future educators, we must be sensitive and accepting of issues such as these so that all students may have an equal chance.