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Student Background Project: Student B

Middle School Band

The second student that I chose to observe during my middle school placement is a 6th
grade saxophone player. As a saxophone player myself, I felt that it would be interesting to
observe another saxophone player so that I could remind myself of what it was like to be a
beginner at the instrument. One of the most difficult aspects of teaching middle school is
realizing that things that seem simple to me at this point are still very difficult for these students.
Observing this student has given me a greater understanding of what fundamentals skills they are
still needing to learn and what they do already know.
I decided to choose this specific saxophone player because he was one of the first
students I worked with at this school. My cooperating teacher let me know early on that this
student had difficulties with speech that also impacted his saxophone playing. His difficulties
mainly stem from underdeveloped muscles that create issues when he speaks as well as when he
engages those muscles to form his embouchure in band. As I worked with him, I noticed these
difficulties and was able to better understand why he often squeaks or doesn’t produce the sound
he wants. He has the ability to create the proper embouchure, he just needs reminders throughout
class to maintain that embouchure because it does not come as easily or naturally as it does for
most other students. While he needs these reminders, I also find it important not to specifically
call him out in class because this could become discouraging and embarrassing. This particular
student sits in the front row so I can easily hear when he is not using the proper embouchure.
When I begin to notice this, rather than exposing his weakness to the other students by calling
him out, I simply give a reminder to the entire class to be engaging their embouchure muscles so
that they can produce the best sound possible.
Something else that I noticed was that it took a while for this student to become
comfortable talking to me. Due to his speech issues, the student is generally shy around new
people who do not yet completely understand the way he speaks. The first time I ever worked
with him was before I was made aware of his speech issues. I had taken him and a few other
saxophone players out to work on their assessment music. When I asked questions, the other
students were all very eager to answer but this particular student never spoke. In the moment I
thought that he either did not like having a new adult in the band room and was being
oppositional towards me or he just behaved like this all the time because he did not enjoy band.
When I mentioned my worries to my cooperating teacher, she then explained his difficulties with
speech to me and I was able to better understand why he may be uncomfortable speaking up in
front of someone new. As the days went by, he became more comfortable around me and began
speaking more. Now that I have been at this school for several weeks, the student speaks to me
on a regular basis, especially about his love for Star Wars.