I teach in a small New York City high school that exclusively serves students with disabilities. My students have autism, intellectual disability, Down syndrome, and emotional disorder. Regardless of what their classification might be, each and every one of them is a curious, motivated individual dedicated to learning the knowledge and skills they need to thrive as an independent member of society.
Every day, my "special needs" students surprise me with their unique potential.
They are very much motivated by hands-on activities, and they love to socialize with each other through music, dance, and physical activities. They are so caring and accepting of one another’s unique talents and abilities. I learn from my students daily, and they are helping me grow - not just as a teacher but as a person with a wider perspective of the community, more patience, and a bigger heart.
My students have never had music classes in their school until September last year - when I started my job as their music teacher. When I asked them what they looked forward to the most in music class, nearly all of them said they wanted to learn how to play the drums and perform in a band. It sounded like a great idea, except the only working instruments I had were a snare drum, a tambourine, and some shakers. We are doing our best to maximize the resources we have to learn the skills needed to be great musicians. Every day, I emphasize the importance of listening to one another while playing with a group of people. This is a hard task for most adults. It’s even harder for high school students who have autism and intellectual disability. Nevertheless, they have surprised me daily with their potential, as well as their willingness to go the extra mile to achieve a goal. This past holiday season, we were able to put together a recital that celebrated not only their surprising musical talents but their hard work as well. As they progress, they will be able to work as a team and learn to play their favorite songs as a band, as they’ve always wanted to since the beginning. They will release their rhythmic creativity on the drum set, while the electric bass will provide a backbone for their tune.
Starting a band will serve as a great motivation for them to enhance their musical dexterity as well as the social skills they need to function as caring, aware, and independent members of society.
They will learn to collaborate, self-regulate, and communicate with their peers who may be from a different background but nevertheless share the same goal - making music.
DonorsChoose is the most trusted classroom funding site for teachers.
As a teacher-founded nonprofit, we're trusted by thousands of teachers and supporters across the country. This classroom request for funding was created by Ms. Lee and reviewed by the DonorsChoose team.
DonorsChoose makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America create classroom project requests, and you can give any amount to the project that inspires you.
Browse bundles of books that prominently feature Black, Arab, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, and Pacific Islander characters, and the LGBTQ+ community. With each ColorPop book bundle purchased, $5 is donated to our Book Donation Fund, which brings identity-affirming books directly into public school classrooms.