Learning In a New Way

jenniferbackesJennifer Backes, from South Milwaukee, is majoring in Music Education with an emphasis on Instrumental and General Education. Her inspiration to become a teacher comes from long line of educators and a desire to spread her passion of music to others  Her 18-week placement is broken down by the first 9-weeks at Rosenow Elementary in Fond du Lac, and the second at Merrill and Webster-Stanley Middle Schools in Oshkosh.

Words cannot even begin to explain how much fun I have been having at my first student teaching placement!  My cooperating teacher is fantastic and really inspiring!  I am learning so much from her and love everything that she does!  All of the other teachers have also been very nice and welcoming as well.  But the kids, oh how I love them!

As the music teacher we receive every student within the school.  So instead of having to learn about 30 names we have to learn around 400.  We have 16 different classes in order to see every student.  During my first week I wrote and sang a song of introduction to each class so they knew a little bit about my family and me.  I coordinated my song with pictures that I had on a Prezi as well and the kids loved seeing what my family members looked like.  They were as quiet as mice while I was singing and then erupted with questions afterwards.

They are all so adorable! They will hug you, tell you how beautiful you are, and tell you they love you, and even make you a flower from a Kleenex that you really really hope hadn’t been used.  I can’t help but smile every time I go into the school!  But it’s not even that, it’s just being there in general and sharing my passion for music.  Seeing them sing loud and proud or even just seeing them sway back and forth to music brings a huge smile to my face.  And I love walking down the hallway and having them shout, “Miss Backes!” after me.  This is certainly what it is like to be doing something you love!  Even the ridiculously early mornings can’t bring my spirits down!!

The fourth and fifth graders are putting on Pirates: The Musical for their concert in March.  So we auditioned kids for the various roles and now have been working with them on speaking/memorizing their parts.  The third graders are singing a selection of Pirate themed music for the concert so I chose the songs and have been teaching them to the classes.  I’ll be leading all of the grades in their greeting songs at the beginning of every class.  The younger grades (kindergarten through second grade) had their concert in December so it’s really nice because we have been able to do whatever we want with these classes.  We teach a variety of songs, do a bunch of music activities, and just have fun exploring different options with them!

Within my second week of teaching the kids have now gotten used to me being around and I have learned many things that I was never even exposed to in any of my classes throughout college.  Being a music education major, you don’t really receive much insight on teaching since all of the education classes are centered on the main subject areas.  The music methods courses are definitely beneficial and I have implemented much from those, but there are some experiences that you just never even think about until it happens.

I have a handful of students with varying levels of hearing loss.  Many of them have cochlear implants use FM transmitters them hear.  This is little microphone that we clip to ourselves so that our sound travels directly into their ear.  With so many noises happening around them it is hard for these students to decipher and pick out certain sounds.  So this FM transmitter allows the specific sound on the other end of the microphone to travel directly to them.  I never imagined having this many students with hearing loss.  There is one student who is even completely deaf and no FM transmitter would be able to help her case.  She, as do a few others, have an actual sign language interpreter.  I have been working alongside their interpreters to determine placement within the classroom (where the interpreter should stand depending on what I’m teaching/using that day) and also communication with the students.  It has really made me realize how truly sad it must be to not hear the sounds of the world around us.  We take it for granted so often that we don’t know what it must be like to simply live in a silent and/or muffle and distorted world.  Because of this, I have adapted my lessons to better include the hearing impaired by thinking about sound waves and vibrations.  I brought my violin in to work on vocal exploration and I had the hearing impaired feel the vibrations of my instrument as I played.  Their interpreters also used their hands to show the direction of the pitches I played.  It has been an incredibly eye opening experience that I never really thought of before.

I also have quite a bit of students with learning disabilities and/or emotional disabilities.  Now this is something we certainly do not get enough of within our education courses.  I am so thankful to have my job through CESA 6 where I work one-on-one with children with these disabilities because I would definitely be at a loss with what to do.  From my experiences, I have been able to determine when these particular students begin to escalate and can generally bring them back down before something happens.  However if I did not have this training, then I would not have been able to recognize these signs to diffuse them.

Most teaching and the skills you acquire come with experience.  You can take all of the classes in the world and still not know what to do.  Experience is key.  You have to make both mistakes and successes in order to know what works and doesn’t work.  This not only applies to the above situations but also to management in general.  Since I have been teaching quite a bit more this past week, some of the students have been testing me.  Because I’m the new teacher they expect me to either be more lenient or feel uncomfortable with discipline.  So when two were acting out and distracting my class, they were stunned when I called them out so quickly. Naturally, they were not happy with me during the rest of the class but they remained on task and did as I instructed.  This was a good experience for me to go through because it also allowed the rest of the class to realize that I wasn’t going to be a pushover.  While I am new and younger than their other teachers, I still expect them to follow the same rules that every other teacher expects of them.  They can be as upset with me as they want, but eventually they will understand and respect me for it.

Despite the misbehavior that you will always run into as a teacher, at the end of the day I love it.  I love seeing my students enjoying the music I teach them, enjoy the activities I create, and even tackle me with hugs upon seeing me.  I’m their role model and I certainly intend to be a good one.

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