Year: 1996-1997
Month: December
Leader: Group G

Situation/Case Study:

This music teacher works in an early childhood center with kindergarten and first grader students. A first grade teacher asked him if the students could have a sing-a-long. He agreed, and asked about a holiday song that included a religious word. The teacher said that he could use the song. There is one student who is Jewish. Let's back up and talk about Halloween. I was reading the book, The Scariest Pumpkin, and when this student saw the cover, he went out the door. The classroom teacher explained to the music teacher that the book made the student uncomfortable. When Christmas was coming, the music teacher looked for songs, especially about winter. There was one Christmas song and one about Hanukkah. In class, as soon as the word "Deck" was sung, the student went out the door. This was unsettling to the teacher. The music teacher was shook up. In a while, the class began singing the Hanukkah song, and the student came back. At the end of music class, the music teacher had a private talk with the student. He explained the way he had chosen the songs, and hoped that he would sing-a-long. The student acted indifferent, and said "ok." Later on the music teacher learned that the student's mother had explained to him that Christians are pagans. The student asked, "What is a pagan?" He was scared to the point of crying. The music teacher is frustrated because he had worked hard to come up with a list. This student's behavior is controlling what happens in the classroom. It has impacted the songs we sing, and the amount of skills we cover. After all, the songs are just words until you put meaning to them.

Teacher spent a lot of time choosing appropriate songs, which shows he cares about the students and their backgrounds. Teacher is interested in all students learning the same content/skills. Teacher responded to the wishes of parents and is uncomfortable when all is not well; he is trying to reestablish good relations. Teacher doesn't want to scare student. Teacher is frustrated, knowing the value of learning about all musical cultures.

Theories behind practice:

Impact on others:
Q: What are the songs? A. Deck the Halls, Frosty, Winter Wonderland. Q: How is the parent in contact with you? They're not. With the teacher? A. Last year the parent requested that this child skip a grade. The position of the school was that he is very bright, however socially he is behind his peers. Q: Is this sing-a-long a graded activity? A. No. Q: Your anger is about? A. All of this causes division and creates prejudice. Consider that this child's sphere of influence has been his parents up until this year. Q. Are there concepts he misses when he leaves the room? A. Yes. The classroom teacher is just as frustrated, if not more so, than I am. She is always adjusting her plans. Q: What if the rest of the class left during the Hanukkah song?

Contact parents, and ask them to define their concerns. Teacher could say, "I'm struggling with lesson plans for this time of year. Help me plan an appropriate curriculum. What songs would you suggest?" Choose songs for the purpose of teaching concepts. Talk to parents- music specialist and classroom teacher together. Be objective, and discuss skill level. Question: Are you required to change the curriculum for one student? Question going to the hall to do other activities. What if everyone wants to go in to the hall? Can a six-year-old make these decisions? Let go of your own feelings. Seek to understand. The child will feel a great allegiance to his mother. Student is conflicted.

Seek to understand the parent's views. Plan less objectionable music. Know which days to plan alternatives. Nowadays, it is incumbent upon us to avoid religious-laden content.