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My thoughts on Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relevance...

Week 1

1. Ethnocentrism as it relates to our public schools - Partridge Article

The possibility that the learning and literacy of any student, particularly students of ethnic minority backgrounds in their community, "may be hampered by the informal social interactions that take place in the classroom" does not resonate well with me and must not be allowed. ("WorkingandPlayingwithOthers: Cultural Conflict in a Kindergarten Literacy Program," by P.R. Schmidt, 8. This quote appeared on p. 11 of Partridge's article).

Teachers and schools have the unique opportunity to teach inclusivity, open mindedness, and cultural appreciation in our classrooms and school communities rather than allowing ethnocentrism to take root. Ethnocentric comments can cause students to feel inadequate and precondition them to feel disenfranchised by their learning community and academic culture. Partridge adds on page 13 that "If all students are to be served fairly and well, no single ethnic group can have 'center stage.'"

There is so much value in providing students with a multicultural focus in schools rather than allowing for ethnocentricity to take hold. Children know their own culture and community experience best because they live it everyday, and they may not know that other children their age who share common interests on the playground are growing up within a different culture. It can be fun and fascinating for children to share about their own culture and learn about the culture of their peers in an educational setting. Multi-cultural fairs at schools are a fun way to allow families and students to share about their culture, food, music, and other traditions stemming from their family's country of origin. Field trips to museums are also an effective method of decreasing ethnocentrism.  In music class, I teach songs and circle games from as many different countries as possible. I also would like to introduce a project in which students can teach the class a song/game that represents their culture. 

I really resonated with page 9 of the Partridge article when she quoted The Baltimore Network: "every young person has interests and talents that should be identified early in life and nurtured for lifelong learning." I have seen this time and again as a stay at home mom to my children for 9+ years and then a music teacher. If we recognize what interests our students, they will be life long learners and feel successful because they will have felt successful and passionate about their interests and talents starting from a young age. We want every child to feel this way and explore their interests and share their perspectives which are partially shaped by their cultures of origin. 

One reaction I had while reading the article is that Partridge mentions many cultures, but not the Native Hawaiian culture. I would love to see Hawaiian culture and history taught in US schools. My part in addressing this absence of Hawaiian education in schools is that I teach a hula dance to "Mele Kalikimaka" which is how we say Merry Christmas in Hawaii. I will probably do another hula dance in the spring because my students enjoyed it so much. 

2. Embracing Discomfort by Roehl 

Cultural relevance is a manner of teaching that gives students an opportunity to connect personally and culturally with lessons in class. Roehl introduced the concept of "priming" that I'm fascinated with and looking forward to exploring in my own teaching practice: "Today, priming, or building student curiosity and motivation through an anticipatory activity before a lesson, takes more prominence in my classes than it would have in the past. That's because priming activities with the students’ cultural backgrounds in mind help students make emotional connections to the material." After priming students and giving them time to discuss in smaller groups how they connect to the lesson material, Roehl describes that the class discussion demonstrated the students were more engaged and personally connected to the lesson content. 

Priming is a concept that could be scaled to fit any subject or age group. I'm excited to work this into my elementary general music classes as well as my private music teaching practice. 

Roehl also likens equity in the classroom to gardening, which is a favorite pastime of mine too:  "A metaphor that helps me understand the difference between equity and equality draws from gardening—a favorite hobby of mine. In the garden, success does not come from caring for each plant in the same way, but from nurturing each plant in the way it specifically needs. My tomatoes and onions are in the same garden, but my tomatoes get more water than my onions because that’s what they need." I found this an interesting and effective analogy. I am committed as a teacher to the concept of working with each student to reach the highest level of knowledge and performance in my music classes. I imagine that the concept of what some groups of students need (as it may relate to their needs being prioritized over other student groups) would be the result of careful consideration and backed by data gathered during student assessments. 

What is culture? How do schools mirror the dominant culture?

Week 2

1. I define culture as a collection of the lifestyle, belief systems, and traditions that are typical to a family, region, and/or community. Culture includes cuisine, art, religious traditions, and music. Culture can also include share community qualities such as hospitality, open-mindedness, and generosity. Culture can also include negative qualities such as close mindedness, negativity, and ethnocentricity. My goal in my music classroom, community, and family is to build a culture of positivity, kindness, love of learning and teaching, open-mindedness, and multi-culturalism with every word, action and activity I contribute. 

Whenever people and cultures co-exist, stories emerge. Ideally, these stories will be positive in nature, respectful, and appreciative of cultural differences. Unfortunately, history has shown that often these stories are negative, one-sided, and intend to harm others. Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk "The Danger of a Single Story" eloquently gave numerous examples of how this can occur within and across nations. I resonated with the following sentiment that she shared: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they’re untrue, but that they’re incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” 

The example that I can best speak to is the Native Hawaiian people (my ancestors) who were looked down upon by the European Missionaries that settled the islands with a purpose: to bring Christianity to the Hawaiian people because the the native culture was perceived as hedonistic and immoral due to their belief in many gods and other cultural differences regarding how families were structured. As Cris Cullinan wrote in Vision, Privilege, and the Limits of Tolerance, “Whenever we doubt the worthiness of another human being, with no concrete reasons to do so, we have not very far to go before we can justify treating that person as less than a fully-deserving human.” Some Hawaiians embraced the religious instruction, cultural make-over, and resultant westernization. Some Hawaiians resisted. Many Hawaiians were killed by diseases brought to the islands. As Hawaii was brought into the United States, Hawaii's royal and political system came to an end. The royal estates dedicated money towards the future education of Native Hawaiians, yet to this day, many of these students do not feel successful academically and they struggle to rise out of poverty.

I have a family member who teaches at one of the high schools dedicated to and funded for the purpose of educating Native Hawaiian children. This family member believes that too many of these families have lost connection with their own story and thus their own sense of worth and dignity. It is sad to see any culture face such struggles. As a music teacher in California, I long to one day return to the islands and help my Hawaiian brothers and sisters feel successful academically. I also will not stand for any student in my school community who feels unworthy of a successful educational experience which will prepare them for a good job and a good life. 

Reaction to Immigration Quiz

Week 3

I did not do any reading before I took the quiz because I wanted to see how I would do going into it blind. I received a score of 4/9. I was really surprised that Libya and Qatar have the highest net migration...I did not anticipate that and I also realized that don't know a lot about this part of the world. 

I know that my ancestors were immigrants to this country too, a few generations back. Other than the Native Americans, everyone living in the United States is the descendent of immigrants. I don't understand why so many people have decided that immigration is negative. Many Immigrants are hard working and do not take things like education or government services for granted. Many Americans who have been here for generations do not work hard, do not appreciate education, and do take government services for granted. We just cannot stereotype which people are a "burden" or an "asset" to America based on country of origin. I am a big fan of the "people in glass houses should not throw stones" philosophy. Many people who criticize others are in fact culprits of the very same accusations they put on others. 

I was also very surprised about the answer to this question! I figured that if we had to generalize on why large groups of immigrants from certain countries were drawn to Arizona, then maybe it was because people from other hot and dry climates tended feel more comfortable and at home in Arizona. So I chose El Salvador and Ecuador which do have some hot and dry areas. Perhaps people from Canada like the change in climate and perhaps people from the Philippines like that's the climate is equally warm but less humid. I definitely learned a lot from taking this quiz!

Differentiating for diverse learners

Week 4

I consider and approach teaching music in a very similar manner to teaching a language and math. All languages have their own system of notation, carry communication, and rely upon sounds/values that are tied to symbols. The overlap is fun and fascinating to explore! To make music study more accessible to all students, I often teach by rote early on in the school year (demonstrating and then asking students to repeat back the sounds that they hear). Learning music by rote gives students the opportunity and practice time needed to develop their ears, technique, and memory without the added complication of reading music notation. The symbols involved in the written music language are important, but we get into reading, writing, and understanding them later in the year after the sounds tied to each symbol are already familiar. 

I find that this method of teaching rote first and notation later helps students who are all at different levels of music ability due to many reasons: perhaps they're new to the english language, perhaps they have a learning disability, or perhaps they have no prior exposure to music. 

Other tools for music learners of all kinds that I have found helpful: providing music notation that is bigger and easier to see. Explaining music vocabulary and symbols every time I use them, no matter how many times we have already discussed because review is always helpful and sometimes certain symbols and concepts in music don't click until they have been discussed multiple times already. I also encourage students to practice and feel good about whatever level they are at because "the more we practice, the better we get." 

Music can be intimidating, so my goals as a music teacher is to always help students feel successful, no matter what level of musicianship they have attained. 

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