Good evening fellow cohort 2015 winners, past winners, and friends and family. It is a real honor to be invited to speak on behalf of my cohort and an even greater honor to be selected as a winner of the Atlanta Families’ Award of Excellence in Education. My journey is much like most of us here today. We graduate college with the dream of becoming an educator and impacting students’ lives while sharing the joy and love we have for our craft. It was only after years of teaching that I had my own “ah ha” moment. Teaching is so much more than what I could have ever imagined.
As an elementary music teacher, I have the ability to impact hundreds of students yearly. In addition I have the honor of teaching these students for sometimes up to six years consecutively. Then I have the privilege to teach siblings and who knows, one day those children's children! Within this time frame I am able to build relationships with my students and their parents unique to other teachers in my building. I am able to personally watch them grow as I take part in molding their path along the way. I teach children to discover who they are and develop them culturally. Through my students I am forming relationships with parents and the community and helping them see music through the eyes of their children. This impact on a community is not taken lightly. I not only teach my students the skills necessary to meet and exceed music standards, I am also teaching them the value of cooperation, teamwork, success, failure, problem solving, creative thinking, and critical thinking while tying in relevance from across the curriculum. Music is culture and lends toward developing the whole child in a way that academics cannot possibly compete. I strive to educate the community to become more culturally well rounded. I also aspire to continue to bring the global community into my classroom with music professionals from all around the world while sharing our work with the world as well.
As a music educator in today’s heavily academic-driven world, our time is often spent demonstrating and advocating for the placement of music in our schools. To our advantage, research supports that musically trained students show gains in math and spatial reasoning, reading and verbal skills, as well as social and emotional development. Music truly is the universal language as well as an outlet for cross curricular learning. Not a moment goes by in my classroom where we aren’t making some connection to language arts, math, science, or social studies. These connections are a natural fit and make learning more meaningful to my students.
What you might not know is music is most commonly displayed through performance elements and project based learning. What is unique about music class, is the ability to master a concept. The only way to truly show mastery is to practice, adjust, evaluated, analyze and finally perform a polished production for an authentic audience. I am proud to say that each child in my school has this opportunity on a regular basis to perform for an authentic audience.
If you aren’t familiar with music performing arts, you may not realize that in order to successfully make music, you must first learn to work together. To prepare my students for this collaborative effort, I start from the kindergarten up with musical performances. Each student has a special role, costuming, and part assignment from the very beginning. We learn to work together as a team to present a perfected, well-rehearsed performance for the student body and the parents. Music defines collaboration. Mutual respect among classmates builds a collaborative team, allowing students to make connections with one another in a unique way different from their classroom environment. This common goal creates an inviting, non-threatening classroom environment in which students are able to take risks without feeling failure while building teamwork and developing interpersonal skills. Among the one hundred and twenty fourth and fifth grade student volunteers in my afterschool choral group, teamwork is evident as we look out for each other, we build each other up, and we talk through Edmodo to provide support for one another much like a family. We are our biggest cheerleaders. You know that students are part of a true community when they clap for each other during rehearsals to show their support.
Through social media and personally written letters, I have been able to keep in contact with many of my students. However, one student in particular will always stand out in my mind. I will never forget working with my little kindergarteners on their musical, EIEI Oops. Out popped this amazing small voice. Vibrato and all! I don't think I have ever heard Old MacDonald had a Farm sound so beautiful, and I probably never will! I knew then there was something special about this young lady. In 3rd grade, we featured a soloist, and as luck would have it, she rocked the audition! Right away, she discussed how nervous she was when performing in front of her peers and a large crowd. I told her what I tell most of my young vocalists, “just look right at me and I’ll help you through.” She sounded like an angel on Greece is the Word. The next year, she joined my chorus group as a 4th grader. This was the first year I was able to get a sneak peek at her true talent. She auditioned for a simple solo in our winter school performance. She had an amazing ear and could sing in tune with such ease. It was inspiring. I added a special part just for her! Her voice soared over the top of the chorus in her own improvisation style for our closing piece. I don’t often get goose bumps, but every single hair on my body stood on end. And between you and me, I may have even teared up a bit! She again earned a solo singing a very difficult role in the spring show. Her confidence was building each year, but the nerves still existed. I was able to convince her to look just past me to her mother in the audience, getting one step closer to acknowledging the audience as a whole. Brooke really showed her talent off her fifth grade year when she sang the solo “Where the Boys Are”. It was always a joy to watch the audience react when she was on stage, both peers and adults. A calm, quiet hush would come over the crowd, as if they didn’t want to miss a single moment. Brooke taught me a valuable lesson. The lesson that I really needed to find those gems in my classroom and help build their talent, offer opportunities, and hone their craft. Laying the foundation for success starts with us as we mold these young students. Finding each of their talents and guiding them at the very beginning is key. I keep in touch with Brooke. From elementary age to now I was always heard saying the same thing. She would be able to quote me…. “Remember me when you are famous”. This young lady is simply amazing! Last year my little student who I met singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Brooke Adee, made it to the live rounds of The Voice! Talk about a proud teacher moment. In recent contact, she paid me with one of the most incredible compliments an elementary music teacher could ever receive. “You inspired me to be a singer”.
We must never take what we do for granted. We must live each day to our fullest. What we do DOES matter. We are building our future. It is my dream that my passion for teaching spreads to other educators so that we have a strong network of leaders to care for the next generation. It starts with us! Thank you for being on my team!
Thank you Atlanta Families' for allowing me to impact so many students through the adoption of Quaver's Marvelous World of Music in our school through my project!
~ Until next time!