Once a week, I have the privilege of working with my district's most special learners in a self-contained setting. I have LOVED teaching and learning in this environment. Here are a few things I have learned that are REQUIRED:
1) Creativity - there are so many musical activities that are possible with the appropriate modifications. I have to constantly work to challenge my students while offering them the support they need to be successful.
2) Thoughtful planning - each week doesn't require a whole list of new activities. In fact, my students find that quite frustrating. Typically 1-2 brand new songs are okay - the rest of the lesson plan is repetition and extensions on familiar activities. However, the time consuming part of the planning process is to really think carefully about how many different steps are involved in a single activity and to layer those in throughout the year. For example, starting and stopping music making or movement was challenging at first. By building these skills into nearly every activity throughout the school year, many of my students have become successful. The others are still working toward that goal! Also, by breaking down each activity into incremental steps, my students could be successful each week on the step they're on and their teachers and TAs get to celebrate every success with us.
3) Energy and responsivity - both my students and their supportive adults at school all feed on energy and enthusiasm. If I am excited about what we're doing, typically they'll be there with me. But if they aren't, am I really making the right repertoire choice? I've tried to be responsive to all adults who make music lessons possible. Their support has been invaluable.
I had someone ask me about this placement - if what I'm doing is really "Kodaly-inspired". As the end of the year approaches, I would say, most definitely. I could understand the frustration of someone wanting to begin with kindergarten level skills and move forward at the pace of a typically developing student's curriculum. However, I remember Phyllis King telling me several years ago, "You meet your students where they are, and you take them forward from there."
I've taken beat keeping and vocal exploration and wound them back to the appropriate place for each of my students with vastly different abilities and strengths and worked forward with each one of them incrementally and with support. As the school year wraps up, I have to say - I have learned more from my students and their amazing teachers and support staff than they have possibly learned from me. My gratitude for their patience, wisdom and enthusiasm runs deep and wide.