Standard #2: Learning Differences
The teacher uses understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet high standards.
Regardless of where I teach, I will always have students from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. As such, it is my duty to understand my community students’ differences and how to best address their needs. By accommodating my students according to their personal needs, I can create a more inclusive program that helps all students meet high standards and become successful.
During my student teaching placement, it was important to me that I was creating a musically enriching environment for my students. Programs that may not have the funding, staff, or facilities to utilize non-traditional ensemble experiences can still cultivate a well-rounded musical environment. One way to do this is to play recordings while students are entering the room. While it is beneficial for these recordings to be related to the music students are learning in class, they could also simply be music students are interested in or from diverse cultures to help foster excitement for music-making as students enter. Also, students can learn skills inherent in chamber music – such as independent playing, problem solving, collaboration, and intonation – by utilizing non-traditional rehearsal techniques. Sectionals, pods, mixed seating, silent rehearsals, and others are great ways to break up the norm and provide students with exciting new ways to experience music in a traditional ensemble setting.
Cultivating a positive and inviting environment for music making also requires differentiation and accommodations for specific students. Early in my student teaching experience, I was working with a student with an IEP in the 6th grade string class. She and her aid explained to me that she was getting frustrated because she was not able to keep up with her peers, and that she was having difficulties using both the right and left hands together; furthermore, the student was having trouble staying motivated to work in class because violin wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be, so she wanted to quit or learn another instrument. During class, I gave her options during activities, such as clapping, singing, or playing. I also gave her specific goals, such as once we do part A, we can move on to part B. While the class was learning “Rolling Along,” I had the student hold her violin in guitar position and just work on the fingerings. We then added pizzicato, then pizzicato in the normal playing position, and by the end of class she was holding her bow. While she wasn’t quite able to play the entire song, she was able to play the first half with her peers and seemed to have much more fun than she had in previous classes. After a few days, I was invited by the student's academic support team - consisting of her parents, administrators, and teachers - to a meeting concerning her enrollment in the class. I observed from my experiences with her and from information given by her team that she was sensitive to auditory and physical sensory experiences. While she enjoyed playing along with her peers and participating in class, she did not like feeling left out or behind other students. We decided that the amount of multitasking needed for playing violin would be too difficult for her at this stage of her development, and that it was in her best interest to move her to a piano class. The piano class would allow her not only to participate more actively with her peers, but also use headphones to isolate her own playing. Furthermore, because piano is a more visual and tactile instrument – you just press a key and the note sounds – she would have a better experience learning to play the instrument.