How our country designs urban schools and their children to fail
- Massive stress is placed on standardized testing
- Teachers are forced to teach to the test because if the kids don’t do well, it makes the school and teacher “fail”
- In many states, including Maryland, student’s “growth” (aka test scores) determine 50% of a teacher’s observation. So if you are a great teacher but your students have behavioral problems or are chronically absent or are too tired or too hungry or have a special need or are ESL and don’t test well, then you are seen as inadequate and can be fired for it.
- When they have to teach to the tests, students lose out on social studies, health, and science until grade 5 or higher
- The arts and technology are being cut for budget and because they “don’t help with testing” even though it’s proven, for example, that music class helps students score better on reading and math
- Students who are ESL and special needs have to take the same test and their scores are counted with the other students, which makes the overall scores go down
- A student with an IEP is legally NOT allowed to held back for ANY reason, so kids who can’t even spell their own name have to take these standardized tests once they hit grade three.
- ESL and special needs students can excel in music and art but there is so much pressure put on testing that it makes them feel like failures when they can’t keep up
- There are 3 pre-tests and a post test AFTER the actual test, which takes away almost a month of instruction in the mornings. This makes the students very irritable and tired and increases behavioral issues.
- New tests are created constantly so that the testing companies make more and more money and force teachers to buy more materials from them. They also keep making tests harder so that urban schools will have to spend more money and take more time to figure them out.
- Urban schools are incredibly under-funded so that students who need an aide or a psychologist or some other help either won’t get it or they’ll get it once or twice a week because that aide/professional/counselor/special ed person has to shared with a bunch of other schools.
- Schools have resorted to adding extra weeks or hours onto the school day. This makes it hard for parents to get babysitters or take them to school so the kids just end up staying home. The earlier weeks and the longer days make the students more frustrated and more tired and, when they are older, more likely to drop out. They also do not pay the teachers any extra for this time or these weeks.
- New rules have changed suspensions. Suspensions make schools “look bad”, so they will do whatever they can to keep a student in school. In my fiance’s middle school, a student can cuss out a teacher and threaten them and they will only get a slap on the wrist and will be back in the teacher’s room the next day unless they have a weapon. While other means of punishment should be looked at, there are students with severe enough actions that they need to be kept away for the safety of their peers and teachers.
- Many urban schools under a certain number of students do not have a nurse
- Class sizes are monstrous because the schools don’t have enough money to employ enough teachers, so the teachers that are there have classes of 30-40 students and are expected to be able to give each child individualized attention, which is not possible.
- Teachers are stuck using out of date materials and many have to buy their own pencils, paper, and other supplies for their children.
And finally, when all of these things happen and a school is “failing”, the media and the government turn and blame everything on teachers and the union and tenure and they brainwash the public to go along with it so that nobody finds out the truth.1
Some things i have discovered while urban teaching music
Fifth graders do not like Metallica. First graders do, especially “Enter Sandman”.
Bluegrass > country
Fifth graders like Verdi’s “Dies Irae”
You will be begged to watch Annie
Boys are more open to the Nutcracker if you show them sections where the male is lifting the female a lot (ex. The Arabian Dance)
If you talk about how ballet dancers dance on their toes, be prepared for half the class (mostly boys) to try it and fall on the ground.
Students will whine about doing rhythm cards until you put a backbeat to it.
Students like to show off; bring in an audience (principal/teacher/secretary/ etc) and they will automatically use their best effort. PS It’s not just you; they will do it to everyone
If you have a dreidel in your hand, their listening skills multiply X3
Young children will dance to anything
Turn it into a game and they will learn it much faster
Kids can pronounce my name easily and will correct adults
You will want to scoop a few kids up and take them home instead of giving them back to their parents
The child has been molded by the parent; children are not “bad” by default
Instruments are a good bribing method
Hugs will make your day
Sometime all kids need is someone who will listen
And the stories they have will break your heart
With music, sometimes the best way to teach is just through exposure
Play is often a greater teaching tool than you gabbing
Seeing children teach each other while you simply monitor makes you feel like Superman
Seeing other teachers as exasperated as you are makes you feel a heck of a lot better
Children can have two faces; one with their peers, and one with you. The second one is the more honest one.
If you play/sing for your kids, it will probably blow their minds
Not every day will be productive, especially during testing or right before a break. That’s okay.
Lesson plans are not set in stone. Not even close.
I stutter a lot and the kids either don’t notice or don’t care
Utilize student helpers; make it something to be earned rather than something given for a favorite
IF you feel crappy, remember how you felt your first day and realize how far you have come.
One of my students said she wanted to go to high school online instead of regular school.
I asked her why.
She said, “Because kids in high school get shot”.
Remember this when you want to complain about high school and be thankful that this wasn’t your reality (and if it was, I am very sorry. I wish things were better).0
I’m so proud of this class project that I had to tell you
Backstory: I teach music to urban prek-5th grade kids. This is fifth grade.
I did a school-wide unit on Fantasia: Music tells a story. I love Fantasia and wanted the students to experience it. The result was very positive and some of the teachers were jealous!
Fifth grade watched “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Fantasia and “Flamingos” and “Steadfast Tin Soldier” from Fantasia 2000. We talked about how the creators of the movie listened to the music first and then designed the story off of what they heard.
I had fifth grade listen to “Infernal Dance of the King” from Stravinsky’s Firebird. The students had to create a story from what they heard in the music. I played through the section twice so they could take notes and then write out the story fully. Some kids’ stories took up an entire page.
After they wrote them, I reminded them that they were animators and had to animate their story. I used a four-panel comic book template for them and they could make more than four panels if they wanted. They had to tell their story in the panels without using words.
Next week they will finish them up and color them. I will then hang their drawings alongside their stories on my bulletin board so that anyone who sees them can get the artwork AND the story behind it. I am very excited to see how each student individually interpreted the music.
First year teacher has the creative juices flowing.35
Yay for successes!
When I started, all of my students were one to two grades below their curricular grade level for music.
Yesterday, third grade reached grade level. I had to bump them up to reading 16th notes because they were moving so fast. They have also surpassed my fourth graders as of right now.
I’m super stoked and I ran around and told everyone because I was THAT excited.
I even told my principal and got a high five.
This would be more accurate if the teacher looked stressed out because she was being watched by a personification of testing/test scores/NCLB.
Teachers HATE stifling creativity. But when you have a curriculum, you have to follow it.
When you’re out with your significant other and you see your teacher
When you’re out with your significant other and you see your student(s)
I hate my job this week
It’s funny really. When I started, everyone kept coming up to me saying, “IF you need anything, let me know. I’m always here to help.” Well, that’s crap. It’s total bullshit. People only want to help you if their mood is full of sunshine and rainbows and they are full of free time with no work to do whatsoever. Only then are they available.
I also have the double whammy of being a first year teacher AND a specialist. Nobody wants to talk to me or get to know me aside from the other specialists. I can’t approach anyone for help without feeling like I’m interrupting something. It’s got to the point where my mentor told me to stop apologizing when I come in his room to ask him something. I constantly feel like I’m stupid and I’m a burden. First year teachers need SO much support. And they wonder why new teachers hang around until they get tenure and then leave.
I also found out today what happens when you have to discipline a staff member’s child. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I am NEVER doing it again.
I really feel like I’m getting the rookie treatment. Teachers talk to me in a completely different manner than other teachers. When I have to help out in the main classroom, some teachers make me copy and hand out papers for them. They don’t do that for any of the veteran teachers.
I feel like I’m drowning in the ocean with a beach full of people who couldn’t be bothered to help. All while they are standing at the water’s edge yelling at me for not teaching three hundred children how to swim.0
I always forget how much freedom I have
My school is seriously the best, and the hard parts have me forget that.
I get to design my own program. The previous teacher was disliked and the students had a sub for six months, so I don’t have to compete with previous notions and previous programs. I follow the district curriculum and I have textbooks the school uses. Other than that, I’m free to do what I wish.
My coworkers, bless their souls, have no idea what I do. They come in and observe me and they love it. They end up saying “I don’t know what she’s doing, but it seems to be working/looks cool”. We musicians tend to forget that our methods look a little strange to those who are used to a traditional classroom.
My principal even gave me a little money (I KNOW RIGHT. IT DOES HAPPEN SOMETIMES). I could order whatever I needed for a certain amount of money. I got recorders for my third graders that they will pay me back for, a portable boombox, 4 sets of boomwhackers, and a 10-inch head djembe that was on sale. I also can fundraise for other stuff as much as I want.
The reason this came up is because I observed my mentor at her school, and I will say that I don’t envy her schedule. She has three different duties, only gets a short time to see the kids, and almost never gets lunch. She also has super high expectations put upon her and gets thrown into events where she only has about a month to make it happen. I have to start a chorus and have a simple unison number prepared by November. No big deal.
I just want people to know that freedom in teaching does still exist, and that it rocks. The end.3