March 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm #46887
I teach elementary Vocal Music in a K-5 building. This is my first year in this school, 16th year in the district, 24th year teaching overall. I have a 4th grade student who shouts/yells all the time. He does not attempt to match pitch. The student chooses to sit in a slumped forward position instead of sitting up straight with feet on the floor as we have learned in class. There have been 3 different music teachers in this building in the past 4 years, so no consistency in instruction for the students. We had a very successful holiday concert and I heard many positive comments, including from the principal, about how beautifully the students sang.
We have most recently been working on dynamics and making changes as indicated in the music. This student has 1 preferred dynamic—-forte. Even when playing an ostinato on instruments, he would not or could not play at a soft dynamic. My problem now is the parents who have complained to the principal. They came to see me at fall conferences. The boy cries frequently and appears to be very sensitive to any kind of correction or constructive comments, even if directed at the entire class. The parents have now gone to the principal accusing me of bullying their child. I am not aware of any special ed identification or hearing problems for this student. I have not encountered a student who after better than half of a school year has not made at least some progress with singing in tune in a light voice with all that we do in class. I don’t know what to do. I give general, full class feedback and encouragement. Learning music requires one to make mistakes and work to correct them with a teacher’s feedback. I am worried that I am going to be told I may not make any kind of corrections in this classroom anymore.
Any suggestions would be welcome!March 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm #47477
We have all encountered a similar situation if we have been in the classroom for a few years. Do not lose heart and use your school and district resources. Talk with the child’s classroom teacher, your principal and school psychologist to learn about the history and current learning styles of the child and share strategies. Fill out an IEP and have the proper professionals come in and observe the child in your setting. Document everything so that you have your own history which will assist in diagnosing the problem and illuminate patterns or triggers. While this action plan is progressing, find a moment here and there to talk with the child one on one maybe while the class is working independently on a project or a “planned” by chance time. Ask what he enjoys doing in music, what he would like to do in music, music or other interests that could tie into what you’re doing, anything that can help you make a personal positive connection with him and work from there.
All the best!
Christine Hayes, Past-Chair, Council for General Music Education
K-5 General Music, Whitewater, WIMarch 5, 2015 at 8:27 pm #47511
Have you tried taping him? Maybe as part of your assessment protocol include some audio or even video recording. Give the class exemplars of singing with appropriate, expressive dynamics and let them “rate” (self-assess) their own performance, identifying what they did, or need to do to meet district “proficiency” level in this skill. If viewing his performance in an ensemble setting would potentially be embarrassing for him try to find a way to confer privately. Having your “sticky situation” boy participate in this kind of self assessment will hopefully help him be more reflective.
This is tricky but almost always kids and their parents know you sincerely want everyone to have a positive musical experience – best of luck.
Mary Anne Zupan
Retired K-5 music specialist
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