For this semester’s internship, I am assigned to Emerson Elementary and Lehi Elementary School, giving me a taste of two very different school communities! Over the course of this semester, I have observed the schools and their communities, and and have researched further details that contribute to the make up of both schools. It was very interesting for me to take notice of the similarities and differences between the two.
When comparing the two schools, which are both in the Mesa Unified School District, it is quite evident the difference in the boundaries feeding into the schools. Emerson Elementary stretches less then two miles both ways, while Lehi Elementary covers almost twice this boundary. This ultimately affects transportation to both schools. Emerson Elementary is immersed in a more run down neighborhood, where students either walk to school, or take a bus to school. On the other hand, Lehi Elementary is built in the farm areas of East Mesa, where a lot of the houses are of an older population. Therefore, all of the students are bussed in from all different directions.
The school statistics of these two schools fascinated me, as I have witnessed these standings just in the little time that I have spent there. At Emerson Elementary, a Title One School, the population is comprised of 52.7% of hispanic descent. Emerson has a student to teacher ratio of 20.1-1, and most recently in the 2015-2016 school year received a school letter grade of “C.” In addition, 67.1% of students at this school received free or reduced lunch. Lehi Elementary, a focus school according to its Title One status, is comprised of 62.1% of students with hispanic descent. This school has a student to teacher ratio of 13.6-1, and most recently received a school letter grade of “B.” Lastly, 77.8% of students receive free or reduced lunch.
Details of the Schools
The details of both of these schools were something I instantly noticed from my first initial encounters at the schools. Emerson Elementary, started in 1954, would be a school that I consider more run down. With hardly any color or patterns, the building makes a big square. Almost all of the classrooms are built in large portables, where it is very apparent that no significant remodeling has been done on the building. There is also one big chain gate that surrounds the school grounds. In regards to the music classroom, the class is shared with the Art classroom, therefore making it seem more cluttered then needed. The school has provided the music teacher here with several instruments, but nothing out of the ordinary or fancy. Lehi Elementary, started at its current location in 1978, appears more updated just by the outward looks of the building. Although there is not much color to the outer walls as well, the building is gated with clean iron bars, providing a secure feeling of protection on the campus. It is similar to Emerson Elementary as well that any revisions have evidently not been made for a very long time, as the walls are classrooms are built with brick. The music classroom here is nicer than the one at Emerson, as it is enclosed in its own building. This room is way more spacious, and has various instruments and technological tools that engage the students while teaching. Furthermore, upon asking my mentor teacher, both schools have handbooks, but he is not completely clear as to what both specifically entail.
If there is anything that I have learned from completely this first phase of my final project, it is that there are several components sometimes not taken into consideration that feed into the makeup of a school. It has been very interesting for me to take a step back from the teaching aspect of my clinical experience, and observe my surroundings at the two schools. I feel fortunate that I get to experience two different environments of a general music education classroom.
I had the chance to sit down with my intern teacher and dive into further questions about their experience with teaching. Originally, my teacher never set out to be an elementary school music teacher. His intentions were to work with junior high and high school aged kids, especially as a choral education major. With that said, he has thoroughly enjoyed his past three years at the elementary level. My mentor teacher also mentioned the shift in aims and goals that he has made with these younger students versus older kids. One of his biggest goals is to remember that it is not about how we make music, but why. In music class, he tries to make every experience a musical and uplifting experience, and also reiterates to the class the accomplishments that they have achieved at the end of class through music. He also runs the choruses at both schools that he works at, and believes in giving a musical opportunity in any way, shape or form that he can! My mentor teacher pulled out his book of lesson plans and guidelines that he adheres to, many of which he said were passed down by the teacher who previously taught at those schools. From there, he has adjusted to what suits him and the kiddos best. One thing that my mentor teacher wished they had known or started with prior to entering the elementary music education scene is overall more exposure to elementary education in his college days. Even though he majored in choral education, he wished he had taken classes that would’ve given him more experience with working with students. At the two schools that he teaches at, my mentor teacher is lucky to have support from the faculty and administrative staff. Both schools provide the means that he needs, and try to provide verbal and physical support to all his activities! It has been a neat experience for me to see the daily life of an elementary music educator’s life, and all the planning and efforts gone in to make it a musical experience for the kids!
Brief Sketch: Little Kambraya lines up with her classmates outside of the classroom, eager to begin music class. As she walks into class, she finds her number on the floor, and plops a seat. The teacher begins the lesson, asking a question about what was taught last week. Kambraya raises her hand ever so fast to correctly answer the questions, and receives a sticker positively reinforcing her efforts. The teacher begins the first musical activity, and Kambraya walks over to the instrument that she is assigned to. Laughter is among her and her peers, as they play on the percussion instruments all together. Kambraya walks back to her seat, and waits eagerly for the next activity. As music class goes on, she sings loudly and proudly. Kambraya stands up and participates in all the activities, and accurately performs call and response activities. As class comes to a close, Kambraya helps clean up the instruments, and lines up with the rest of the classmates, waiting until the teacher comes to pick them up.