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Student Background Project: Student A

Middle School Band

The students at my middle school placement come from many different cultural
backgrounds and have varying skill levels. It has been amazing to see students of such different
backgrounds interact with each other and learn with/from each other. The first student that I have
chosen to observe more closely at this school is a 6th grade percussionist. This student has had
issues with behavior throughout the year that have interfered with their ability to excel in band.
When I first came to this school, my cooperating teacher let me know that this student
struggled with behavior and that she was unsure of how the student would behave on a field trip.
This was important to consider because the students were preparing to go to assessment in a few
weeks which was held at a high school about 45 minutes away from our school. I was told that I
would specifically be with percussion to help them with set up and tear down, which also meant
that I would be with this specific student. I began to observe the student more closely during
class in order to prepare for taking the student out of school for assessment. I noticed that during
class, the student was capable of playing the music and did not necessarily have many issues
with music comprehension. What hindered the student was that he had difficulties paying
attention for the full class period. What generally seemed to happen was that the student would
play their part correctly once but then would become distracted and in turn, distract other
students as well. Not only did this behavior hurt this student, but it also hurt other students who
could no longer pay attention because he was talking to them or constantly moving around them.
I decided to try to help the situation by playing along with percussion during class time
when I was not teaching. I found that having the presence of a teacher nearby encouraged the
student to pay attention for longer and do less to distract other students. Actually integrating
myself with the percussion section also gave me the opportunity to give more individualized
instruction. Something that I noticed was that the student knew the music but didn’t always have
the technical skills to play the instruments with correct technique. Being in the percussion
section with this student, as well as all of the others, allowed me to teach these specific skills like
how exactly to hold a triangle or where to hit a tam tam.
I also noticed that the student responds very well to positive feedback. Given their
behavior issues, it is likely that they are often reprimanded and told what they are doing wrong. I
noticed that whenever I corrected the behavior of this student, they shut down, but if I added in a
praise of something else that they were doing well, the student reacted much more positively. For
example, if I needed the student to stop sitting on the floor I would say “Could we please stand
up so I can hear you play your part? You sounded great on it earlier when you played and I
would love to hear more of that!” This positive reinforcement made the student feel like they
could actually do something right and encouraged them to behave more.
When looking at the grades of this student, I saw that band was actually their lowest
grade. They maintained A’s and B’s in all other classes while having a C- in band. This came as
a shock to me as usually students have higher grades in their elective classes than in their core
classes if they are struggling in any subject. I think that one of the main reasons is that in band,
because they student is a percussionist, they are standing in the back of the room which allows
for more freedom for misbehavior. In other classes, the student has a seat and may sit closer to
the front of the room to promote more focus. In band I have tried to more closely monitor how
much this student moves around and create more guidelines for them since that seems to be what
they need to focus. One way that I have found to do this is to have the student focus solely on
mallets one day so that they can stay at one bells station the entire class. Not having to think
about moving around and being distracted by other instruments allows the student to have a
greater focus on what they should be accomplishing that class. Overall, these ideas have helped
and I hope that I will continue to see improvements, even small steps in the right direction, with
this student.