The Incredible iBook- Final Reflection for 600

I cannot believe I helped write a book- in three weeks, nonetheless! This was quite an experience for me. I learned so much about the Interior region through a close study of it and am proud of the work my group and I put into our book. I learned that it truly is helpful to learn by doing. I also learned that it can be very special to study a specific place with the intentions of sharing what you learned about it with others. I have grown attached to my region and feel a connection to its people. I am so glad I had this opportunity to dig deeply into a region of the great state of Alaska and can imagine asking my students to do a similar process of researching and sharing about places, cultures, pieces of music, and more.

I am so appreciative of both professors I had for the past three weeks- thank you so much to Peter for all of his help and hard work to make this book such a successful learning experience for all of us!

The featured image is one I took of the captivating Bering Sea from Unalakleet, Alaska. This state truly is a beautiful place to live.

Making Children Dance: Final Reflection for 680

  1. How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

This question is a strong one. It can be read with such ease at a first glance, inviting many different keywords to the mind instantly. However, when I stop to really read the words and think about what this question means to me, it is a much deeper notion. Culture is a part of who we are. It affects so many things about us: the way we view ourselves and others, the way we see ourselves in relation to the world, the way we function in everyday life. Culture is at our core; we cannot change that. Power is something we can, change, though. We are all born with certain amounts of power in society, and much of that depends on the ethnic and socioeconomic classes to which we belong. Once we recognize that, we have the ability to fight against the uneven spread of power. But ultimately, we as teachers must recognize that each person has power; power to change themselves, power to move people, power to fight against injustices. And we each have the opportunity to do that, grasping onto the colorful and beautiful clothing, tools, decorations, and instruments our culture has given us.

2.  Three terms on our word wall have really stuck with me:

Barriers are all around our students. They come into the classroom with baggage and pain, prejudices and fears. Barriers come between us. They isolate us. This word stuck with me because one of my main jobs as a teacher is to pound at those barriers with everything that I have and bring my students together as a strong, diverse family.

Breaking down barriers requires a lot of determination. A huge word that has stuck with me this year reminds me of this term: grit. It takes a lot of grit and determination to achieve the things we want. When I am determined, I don’t give up, even when it seems hopeless. This kind of force and energy is what I hold with me as I invest in breaking down barriers and bringing my students together.

Safe place
Creating a safe place is my main desire when I think about the classroom environment I want to create. When someone is in a safe place, he or she feels loved, cared for, invested in, listened to, and free to be who they are. That is exactly what a classroom full of wonderful, brilliant minds should be. I want every student to feel these things from me and their peers. I want them to know that they belong in our family.

3. After this class, I feel even more compelled to teach in a culturally responsive way. The first tactic I will use is creating an environment for students to have open discussions when needed. I want my students to feel free to speak their minds and feel protected in our conversations. I will make an effort to address key issues going on in our world and community. I will also introduce units and activities that allow students to research about their own cultures and others’ and present them to the class. I envision doing something similar to the iBook project with my class, except on a smaller scale, so that students take ownership of their cultures as they share about them to their classmates.

Side note: enjoy my featured image; it is from a 50-student cello ensemble concert Meghan and I helped put on this past year in Juneau. 🙂

Teaching Curriculum Standard A

My group and I had a grand time dissecting the main facets of the Cultural Curriculum Standard A found in Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools. We came up with a handy alliteration to remember the different aspects of this standard, which states that, A culturally-responsive curriculum reinforces the integrity of the cultural knowledge that students bring with them”:

This curriculum…

Responds and Reflects
Makes Relevant

With this in mind, I thought of a cultural sharing activity I can do in the music room. Every student has a culture, and every student has music that influences that cultural identity in some way- whether music is a deep part of their culture, or it is just viewed as something catchy to listen to. Students would be asked to find a song that reflects their culture (whether that be a racial/ethnic one, one involving their sexuality, living environment, belief system, etc.) and share it with the class.

We could even expand this to the greater community by having a “cultural music fair”, where each student researches their song, and subsequently their culture, and presents what they learned to their relatives and friends who would be invited into the classroom.

Cultural Standard B and Athabascan Fiddle Music

It has been such an adventure studying Athabascan music, writing about it, and finally putting it into a final product: a lesson plan in an iBook section. I am very excited about incorporating this essential question I believe is so relevant to all musicians, for all time, in my lesson:

How can other cultures influence the music we make?

Musicians are called to be inquisitive, creative, and collaborative artists. This lesson plan invites my orchestra students to view themselves in this way as they explore Athabascan music and how it has been influence by other cultures. Students will see a tangible example of how Athabascan music evolved into what it is today through various influences, and students will also be asked to reflect on their own musical influences through activities and discussions.

Check out the sample of my iBook section that is my featured image above, as well as my lesson plan document that is attached!


The Singer in the Stream

I really enjoyed stepping outside my usual approach toward planning music lessons to incorporate the comfort of a children’s book in my class time. I have witnessed my former mentor teacher using books that accompanied sing-alongs and have found that there is something so pleasant about sitting around in a “story circle”, looking with giant, awe-filled eyes at the book pages while singing. It is a magical thing.

With that image in my mind, I picked up a book called The Singer in the Stream by Katherine Hocker and Mary Willson and immediately envisioned a classroom of elementary or secondary students staring at its beautiful artwork and fact-filled pages with excitement. The most exciting part to me, though, is the topic of the book. This book sheds light about the American dipper, a bird known for its long, complicated songs that can be heard over even the roar of a waterfall. The reason the dipper can produce a healthy forte sound for such a long time is because it can sing while breathing both in and out!

After reading the book with my class, I imagine us researching the dipper’s song and discussing the different aspects of the glorious music it makes. What is the pitch range? Is there a distinct rhythm or tempo to its song? Does it have a clear melody? What is the texture and tone of the bird’s voice? This study and discussion would open students’ minds to the beautiful sounds of nature we so often tune out.

This could lead to a great outdoor activity where we retreat in nature and listen for sounds that could easily be missed if one were not truly listening. Students can describe every sound they hear and collect audio samples of them. This can turn into a great musical composition assignment that could be an individual, small group, or whole-class project.

I love how this book goes across to another subject area- reading and science- and also encourages observations of the world around us- after all, that is what inspires us to make and create music!

The Many “A’s” of Advocacy

It was so great to dissect the reading from the BH&H book in groups today. I really enjoyed the process we went through because it allowed each of us to have time and space to share our thoughts and perspectives.

I extrapolated many different summaries of thought from my group’s discussion of the reading. I can sum up these points with three words that all, conveniently, begin with the same letter: transformative teaching and life-changing multicultural education is built on the foundation of awareness, attitude, and activism.

First of all, it is our job as teachers and humans to be aware of the “-isms” around us. We need to face the sharp, uncomfortable truth that people face prejudice every day (whether they are the receivers or deliverers of it)- that people’s realities may look very different from ours. When we are aware of the issues in our community, our classroom, and ourselves, we are better equipped to address these systemic failures.

It can be a painful process, but awareness is not enough. Our awareness must affect our attitude (I am really on a roll with this!). We must take the truths we have learned and allow it to shape our views and approaches to the world and its inhabitants. We need to invite it to change our minds and hearts.

The concluding step in this process calls us to be activists in our households, classrooms, and all other places in our communities. It is not enough to walk into the classroom with a really neat lesson that highlights different cultures and encourages student inquiry from multiple perspectives; we must be active in our communities and lead this celebration of culture while fighting against injustice. We should be able to answer this question from our students: “This is great and all, but what do you do to fight these issues? What can do?”.

It is not an easy, three-step process, but these thoughts have helped me solidify some key attributes of an educator who fights for transformation in the classroom. It is the only way to expect our students to also be citizens who have an awareness of the issues, are problem-solvers with the right attitude, and are activists in the world.

Being a Culturally Responsive Teacher

Culturally responsive teachers recognize the beauty of the world they and their students live in and celebrate the cultures and land around them. Culturally responsive teaching brings the world that is all around the students into the classroom with them, which may also include physically bringing students outside of the classroom and into the world. I saw many examples of these characteristics at the cultural camp and heard about them from our visitors: Tlingit elders, and teachers such as Paula, Tina, and Angie. For example, at the cultural camp, high schoolers were brought into what my high schooler interviewee implied was a “simulated Tlingit village environment” to learn how to live in the land around them, as many of their relatives and ancestors have done. Students got in touch with their culture and learned how to prepare common Tlingit dishes by having to cook dinner for one another. They learned more about the Tlingit dances (which they performed so beautifully for us!) and how to speak the language.

Tina also brought us through a fabulous math trail that applied basic math concepts to the world around us. By asking us to measure one of the totem poles on campus and find the shapes in the formline design artwork in the UAS library, we used our mathematical knowledge in our environment. Both Angie and Paula continued this concept of culturally responsive teaching by showing us the importance of studying and using the resources available to us. Each teacher’s lesson was so unique and showed deep appreciation of the culture and world around us.

Guests, Scott, Alberta, and Ernestine also provided wonderful insights into how to not only involve culture in the classroom via activities, but also through attitude. Ernestine gave us a glimpse into what it was like to be of a minority culture in the classroom, whereas Alberta and Scott showed us ways to include the place and people around us in the classroom. I am walking away with so many valuable tools in those ways.

Culturally responsive teaching can be applied in any subject area, including music. This past year, I collaborated with the Tlingit specialist at our school to teach our students a popular Tlingit paddle song. While he taught the words and melodies, he also taught us the history behind the song. This concept also makes me think of the unit plan I taught with my fourth grade general music class as part of my teacher work sample last year (me with my class is pictured below, including one of the presentation’s final slides- they definitely got creative!). My students and I studied jazz music and its history and deep cultural influences. The final project was for students to create multimedia presentations about their own cultures and how music and culture inform one another in their lives. It was special to learn about the many different cultures in that one classroom and celebrate one another. In the future, I would love to take my students on field trips outside the room- whether it is performing for a significant community event or doing a nature walk that frames their thinking to inspire their music-making. The possibilities are endless, and that is the wonderful thing!