I’ve grown a lot since I first started looking into diversity in the classroom for my EDCI class. My understanding, perceptions, and attitudes have changed. Before I started studying diversity, I thought that I was someone who was accepting and couldn’t possibly be biased, but I realized I have room to grow. I will always have room to grow in order to become more accepting of people who come from different backgrounds than myself. I thought I was accepting because I had friends who came from different backgrounds than me and I knew people who had different beliefs than I did, but reading about the different kinds of students that I will teaching made me stop to reevaluate what I thought I knew. Getting to experience the world outside of books has also helped me develop and change my perception of people and the world we live in.
I used to think that having a diverse mindset came from knowing and interacting with people who were polar opposites of myself.What I have come to realize is that any difference could help me become a more experienced teacher who presents diversity in their lessons. Something as small as the fact that a student learns in a different way than myself can change my teaching and perceptions. If I choose to teach music in different ways in order to teach my students a concept then I am diversifying my teaching ability and myself. I can do something as simple as having my students write out their scales, as well as play them or any other creative a way to remember them can change a student. I must learn how to allow tactile learners to use their hands, aural learners to hear the scales, and visual learners see the scales. This changes from person to person, so I must remain flexible and open to learning and experimenting.
One thing that has not changed as much, but that has been reinforced through my EDCI class, has been my perspective and attitude towards Special Education Students. While observing at a high school, I approached the Band Director I was working with to talk about the diversity of his classroom. Compared to the High School that I attended and the music programs that I had been involved in, this music class was very diverse. The classes I watched contained African American students, Asian students, Cherokee students, as well as Latino students. The only thing I could think of that the classes were missing was the Special Education students.
While I’ve been in school, I’ve slowly been introduced to Special Education students and the impact that music has on them. Almost all of the Special Education students who choose to do band get put in the percussion section because they can play piano or percussion accessory instruments. Or they are placed there because it’s an easy section to, frankly, dump them in. Whatever the reason, as a percussionist, it’s common to be around Special Education students. When I was in high school, there was a high functioning autistic student who could play electric piano (everything else was too loud) or timpani because he had perfect pitch. The band director at the time let him have the piano parts and the timpani parts because that’s what he wanted - like any other kid who requested to play a certain part. Eventually myself, and my fellow students, convinced the autistic student to try playing cymbals. At first he hated it, but eventually he grew to understand that the cymbals were fun to play and he adjusted to the noise. Now in college, we have a student in the percussion studio who has mild cerebral palsy. He loves to play drum set and snare. No one thinks that this is strange or out of place.
Seeing the lack of Special Education kids, I approached the teacher I was observing to ask about this. His answer shocked me. He said that his principal would not allow Special Education students into the music program except under special circumstances. He said that the principal believed it was too much work to take Special Education students to competitions during marching band or to take them into the community to perform with the other kids. I was appalled. Plenty of other High School Band Programs have Special Education kids who march in their marching band, as well as taking their kids into the community to play. Once I got over the shock, I started to think about how his answer made sense logistically, but not ethically. The first problem I saw was that this school didn’t allow Special Education kids into the music department. The second problem I saw was the fact that this teacher just stood by and didn’t do anything to try and allow these kids to experience music.
After this experience I contemplated what I would do when I had my own students. I decided, that if I faced a superior like this one, I would stand my ground and fight for the Special Education students who wanted to enter the music program. Music is considered the universal language of mankind. Special Education students should be allowed the same avenue of communication as any other student. I also decide that I would try not to confine them to percussion. I would allow them to try out different instruments if they wanted to. However, if they choose percussion I wouldn’t force them into a corner but help them find their instrument - their voice.
As an observer, I felt couldn’t do anything but research and ask questions. In my research, I was excited to find out that The Percussive Arts Society’s International Clinic was offering a seminar in 2018 on inclusion in the classroom. This was an amazing find and I’m so glad that I got to attend the session while I was at PASIC. The seminar was great because it was about percussion and how to facilitate a Special Education percussion class. In the seminar, we talked about how the kids respond to being treated like normal percussion students. John Scalici was the facilitator and is a world renowned musician. He is famous for his programs, such as Rhythm of Leadership and Unity Through Rhythm, which are designed to train teachers how to teach and work with special education students. I learned too much from him to present it all here, but the most important thing that I learned from Scalici is that I am passionate about special education students in music and cannot wait to teach them.
Almost all the students that I will teach, in the future, will come from a different cultural background from myself. Not all my students are going to come from a rural, southern-christian background which is a good thing. Some students will come from a place where Country, Pop, Jazz, Blues, or any other kind of music is what they are familiar with. This present opportunities to introduce them to other genres and instruments. As a student at Western, I have been introduced to composers and performers that I would not have been able to meet or listen to on my own. Composers such as Jason Treuting - who is more of a modern percussionists through his use of antiphonal sounds and unconventional instruments. I have been able to meet Emma O'Halloran, So Percussion, Third Coast, Ivan Trevino and so many more. Each person that I meet broadens my horizon and pushes me to see the diversity of the percussion community. I hope to introduce to my students to new and exciting types of music, composers, and performers, so that they may broaden their horizons and learn more about themselves as well as the world.
Rhythm is the great connector | John Scalici | TEDxYouth@MBJH. (2017, July 25). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/tWLvUQwiIiM Sadker, D. M., & Zittleman, K. R. (2018). Teachers, schools, and society: A brief introduction to education. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. So Percussion: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. (2012, April 05). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/3EDGt5l5_20