"Whatever you do, do it well." This is the mantra of the village Kopeyia, located in Ghana, West Africa. I lived there for 3 weeks, studying drumming and dance. As I bring what I learned into my music classroom, I can see my students living up to this mantra and truly building a sense of community.
Last year I was thrown into the jungle of the projects of North Philadelphia, as an emergency certified teacher without any resources or education background.
My school is considered a high-needs, "empowerment" school that struggles to make AYP. We have 75% African American students and 25% Latino students. 97% live in poverty, and all receive free lunch.
I struggled for months, trying to figure out how to reach my students, who have faced more turmoil in their 10 years of living than I will ever know. I spent more time breaking up fights than teaching music. Last summer I went to Ghana to learn more about the music and culture that appeals to them. It is incredible the amount of respect my students now have for me. More importantly is how much this music and dancing is bringing them together. Seeing an all girls, fifth grade class come together with respect and work together to achieve a common goal makes all the difficulties of teaching in this setting worth it.
I brought back 3 traditional, West African drums. The drum practice pads will be used in class to help the students practice and play along, since only 3 students can play at a time. Having the practice pads helps students get used to the different strokes of the African drums. They will also have an easier time listening to others while they are playing. They will also be used in performances/assemblies, as an alternative to drumming on tables, which are too loud. All students in the class will be able to perform in the assembly with these practice pads.
This project will continue to bring my students together through the art of making music.
For some of them, music class is the highlight of their day, as their lives are very complicated at home. They will be able to get a more genuine experience of performing and appreciating each other as a group.
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