Universal Design for Learning

This is a link to the website of the National Center on Universal Design for Learning: http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl/3principles

I feel it is important to include the UDL in my philosophy for teaching because not all students learn the same way. There are three principles in UDL the first of which is to provide students with multiple means of learning. This principle demonstrates that in the way students learn differently, as teachers we must provide multiple ways for students to get to a common goal in learning. It is essential to provide students with options. This is described by the National Center on UDL as the “what” of learning. I see this every day with my music students. I adjust my teaching method for each student I teach, depending on what that student needs from me that day.

The second principle is to provide students with multiple means of action and expression. The “how” of learning. In this principle, students may differ in the way that they express what they have learned. Some students may be comfortable with speaking, while others need to use actions and some may need to write what they learn. Students will have different ways of showing us as teachers what they have learned and it is important to provide them with options in demonstration of what they have learned. For example, in music it is customary to give playing tests. As a teacher I can give my students a choice whether they prefer to play alone, in a group, in a recording or in front of me. There are many ways to see how a student has learned and what they have learned as well as many ways to assess this.

Finally principle three states to provide multiple means of engagement. The “why” of learning. Students will always be interested in what learning something will give them and they often need to know “why” they are doing something. While some students may love composing and improvising on their instruments, others may simply want to play what is on the page. It is important to know as a teacher, when to be spontaneous and when to play safe with certain students, while at the same time engaging all students equally and providing a means to an end.

The Function of Music

The lesson on mediasmarts.ca entitled “The Function of Music” looks like a wonderful lesson for high school students to teach them how music influences societies and acts as a “mirror” or a symbol. I believe this lesson would be appropriate for students taking supplementary music classes or could used in a class on media literacy as all students are affected by music to some extent. The lesson would not be appropriate for elementary students due to the advanced nature of how the material is presented however I believe it is possible to adapt for younger students without too much modification as long as the students are old enough to understand what advertising is. (Grade 5-6 students). Instead of using the examples in the lesson plan, the teacher would find music in the media that children are familiar with for example, the music from “Frozen”, McDonald’s advertising music or music from nursery rhymes. I would remove the student presentations on a musical collage and instead ask students to get into groups find a recording of a song they enjoy, make a poster with images that the song represents and present their posters to the class, along with the recording of their chosen song. The class would then have a teacher facilitated discussion on the song and what it represents or says about what our society likes at this point in time.


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.