Posted in Miscellaneous

The Magic of Music in the Classroom Part 3: Social Development

Do the benefits of music education justify the use of precious school funds? My most recent posts discussed the challenges schools face with budget cuts and how diminishing funds affect music and other programs in public schools. Despite these challenges, the benefits of music education far outweigh any monetary cost. Among other benefits I will discuss in future posts, music education helps improve elementary school students’ social development.

ImageFew students in a music education program will grow up to be professional musicians. However, music education still has many benefits to offer young students, particularly in the social realm. Musical involvement most often involves a team or group effort, whether in an orchestra, band, or choir setting. Each student has a unique responsibility to fill within the group. This kind of responsibility fosters commitment, dependability, and strong interpersonal skills. Music education also teaches students leadership skills that will benefit them in different aspects of adult life. Because the basis of music education is active and engaging, music students develop teamwork and creative thinking skills as well as cultural awareness.

Students will one day enter the workforce, which requires skills that cannot be learned in academics. These skills can be developed through music education. States looking to make changes and reform the workforce of future generations can look to music education as an alternative. Playing music helps students learn about the nature of work, as they try to make the group sound and be better through the collective and individual efforts of each musician. As teachers, administrators, and parents consider the skills that a music education delivers to students, they should recognize that students who receive a music education perform significantly better than their peers on standards of professional success. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive Poll, 88% of people with graduate degrees participated in a music education experience. Furthermore, 83% of people with incomes above $150,000–including doctors and lawyers–had past music experience. As schools consider what they can do to improve their students’ future, music education should be kept at the top of the list. Continue reading “The Magic of Music in the Classroom Part 3: Social Development”

Posted in Miscellaneous

Stanley’s Adventures

December 20, 2013
Today my adventure finally begins! The trip started in Portland, Oregon where I boarded the plane. I spent 16 long hours traveling over states, oceans, and countries until I finally landed in Denmark.

December 21, 2013
The Danish language sounds like gibberish to me. It’s really different from English, so I don’t understand a single thing they are saying.

December 24, 2013
I finally adjusted to the time difference and set out to experience the Danish culture. First, I went shopping for Danish ornaments to bring back to the United States. Being so small, shopping was definitely an interesting experience. Then, I went to visit a nice old lady in a nursing home. She was 87 years-old and got a bathrobe for Christmas.

December 25, 2013
Christmas was spent with a large Danish family. We ate tons of food that is common in their culture. They also sang lots of songs even though they aren’t very good singers. I just listened because I don’t speak Danish.

December 27, 2013
While visiting a castle, I fell into the moat and started floating away. The kind workers came to my rescue with a net and fished me out of the water. This was by far my most exciting adventure in Denmark.

Meet Stanley:

Hello! You are probably wondering who I am. My name is Stanley, Flat Stanley. I was a young first grader’s school project. Her school assignment was to send me somewhere exciting with a family member or friend during Christmas break. I went on a trip with her aunt to Denmark. All I brought with me was a camera and a journal to document my experience. After the trip, she told the class all about my adventures! Continue reading “Stanley’s Adventures”

Posted in Miscellaneous

The Magic of Music in the Classroom Part 2: Budget Cuts

A friend of mine recently told me that the year after she graduated from high school, her school cut the 7th and 8th grade football teams and laid off a few of the music teachers. As is the case with my friend’s school, significant financial reductions is one of the weightier matters facing schools. My last post introduced some research I conducted on the pros and cons of having music in schools. Continuing my research, the focus of this post is on how budget cuts affect school music programs.

ImageThe financial burden that weighs heavily on school administrators cannot be ignored. States throughout the country have felt the need to significantly cut public school expenses. For example, California reduced its financial aid to school districts by billions of dollars, cutting numerous programs. In 2011, the Pennsylvania state legislature cut public education spending by about $900 million (10%) in order to reduce the state budget deficit. Virginia school districts suffered roughly $700 million in budget cuts. Roughly 13,000 support staff, such as school nurses, and janitors, suffered an additional $500 million in pay cuts.

ImageIt is clear that school administrators’ financial concerns are well-founded, and financial deficits are the root of many problems that they have to address. Lack of funding often results in fewer staff, fewer classes and programs, larger class sizes, and other adjustments. A recent reduction in New Jersey will likely eliminate afterschool programs for approximately 11,000 students as well as 1,100 staff positions. According to a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, the number of elective courses offered by Pennsylvania schools decreased by 44 percent while the class sizes increased by 70 percent. Missouri schools are reducing their transportation costs by nearly 50 percent in order to allocate funds elsewhere. And to add more fuel to the fire, Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, believes that even if the economy improves, it will still be several years before school districts will feel the benefits from it. With so many needs and demands to consider, it is no surprise that school administrators put non-academic programs like music on the backburner. Continue reading “The Magic of Music in the Classroom Part 2: Budget Cuts”

Posted in Miscellaneous

It’s Just Normal

Because we all have different ideas of what “normal” is, it is nearly impossible to pin down a definition. Nothing and no one is “normal.”

What is normal to you may not be normal to others. I began thinking about if normal actually exists while teaching the school dance company here in India where I am working. During a lesson, I started to make a comparison of what your body should look like to a certain food in order to give the students a visual. However, right before I said it, my brain stopped me and I asked myself whether the students would connect to a vocabulary that may be culturally specific. Yes, they probably know what this food is, but I realized in that split second that it would not resonate with them. Instead, I changed it to the staple food of Southern India—rice. This visual worked for them and the concept “clicked.” It was a good reminder to me that what is commonplace for me and any American child is not so in another country. Many of the teaching methods I have learned in school simply don’t work as effectively here. I am still figuring out what works through trial and error. I often ask my friend, who is from India and is teaching with me, if the teaching methods or devices I have to teach a concept are something the students would understand.

As teachers, we want to be fair and nonjudgmental, but we can’t treat every student the same because they are all unique and have different needs. The most important element is to remember who your “audience” is and teach through words and concepts that resonate with them. Remember that what is “normal” to you may not be so ordinary to them.

So far, it has been both a difficult and a rewarding experience in India and I expect both of these feelings to continue while I’m here. I hope this experience will help me become adaptable and able to teach any group of students.

“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” – Vincent Van Gogh