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Carson Satchwell

MUS 342
Portrait #1

Andy is a six year-old first grade student at Leal School in
Urbana, Illinois. Leal School is located in a middle-class residential
area, and roughly one half of its population is white. Many of the
classrooms at Leal are dual-language, as there is a large amount of
Spanish-speaking children enrolled. Andy is a white male, and he is
part of a dual-language class. In the most basic sense, he is what
would be considered an average student with very average
Andy lives with his mom and his dad. Both parents are librarians
one works for the university, and the other works for a company that
Andy couldnt remember today. In the time that I have spent observing
him in Mrs. Blackers classroom, I have picked up on a few
characteristics that I find unique and intriguing. Andy is very involved
in music class. He loves to elaborate on and add to other students
responses whenever a question is asked. While he generally sits
quietly and remains respectful, his hand is always in the air. Andy has
a lot to say. His class is currently on day two of a Carnival of the
Animals unit. The lesson today involved a good deal of careful

listening and informed response. Andy was great at listening carefully,

but he seemed very anxious to respond. For example, Mrs. Blacker was
focused on leading Andys class to the correct identification of a variety
of movements taken from The Carnival of the Animals, and while
Andy indicated that he understood how and why each movement
sounded like a specific animal, he was determined to throw in
additional comments that seemed to be coming out of left field. Mrs.
Blacker asked Andys class why the Aviary movement sounded like
birds. One student answered that the flute sounded like a bird singing.
Andy quickly noted that although he thought that student was right
about the flute, his ears heard a bird carrying something on its back.
He didnt know why the bird was carrying something; he just thought
it sounded like a heavy bird. Mrs. Blacker praised his attention to
detail and moved on with the lesson.
Sitting Andy down to talk was not quite as easy as I thought it
would be. As I mentioned before, he is a shy kid when he is faced with
direct social contact. I tried to start with simple, broad questions before
I dove in to specific ones.

Q: How do you like school?

A: Its okay, I guess. I like it a little bitbut I hate homework. I
shouldnt get that stuff; Im in first grade.

Q: Im sure you get through it, dont you? Do you ever have
homework for music class?
A: Just one time I did. I didnt like that eitherjust like the other

We were soon discussing Andys family. He seemed very excited to

share information about his older sister, Jane. Jane wants to play piano,
and she is in third grade, so Andy says she is definitely old enough to
start taking lessons.
Q: Does Jane like music?
A: She likes dancing, like me. Shes older though. She gets to
make more music than I do.
Q: Youre not that far off, Andy. It sounds like you really enjoy
making music.
A: I do, thats my favorite part with music.
Q: When you do get to make music, do you sing or do you play
an instrument?
A: I play piano sometimes, but I dont have lessons. I play my
dads guitar when he lets me. Hes not very good at it either, so
we are learning. I like to sing tooespecially when Jane dances
to my singing. Its really funny.

Andy goes on to tell me more about his sister Jane and her favorite
songs. He seems to be very close to both his sister and his parents.

Q: Do your parents like it when you play music?

A: They dont care, but they like it when I play the piano. My dad
tries to be the coach, but he is a lot better at playing soccer.
Q: So, they try to help you a little bit?
A: Yeah, they try toI like to do it myself.
Q: Do you have any cool stories to tell about music that you
make at home?
A: Just this one time when my dad let me play his guitar and he
wasnt looking. Jane was there and I didnt let her play it. I went
craaaazy with the guitar and made a lot of loud music.

He definitely had more to say about the guitar, his sister, and his
parents feelings towards his musical exploitsbut after a few minutes,
I redirected the conversation so I could get a better idea of his view on
music in the classroom. As I mentioned before, he is very engaged in
the class, but his actions and answers often lead me to believe that he
may not be as interested in what is being taught as he is music in

Q: When youre in music class, what is your favorite thing to do?

A: I like it when we just listen to music.

Q: Have you had a favorite day yet this school yeara day that
you just really enjoyed the lesson and had a lot of fun?
A: Well, we played a special type of drums one day, I dont
remember what they were, but they were great and I drummed a
Q: That sounds like a lot of fun. You think that was your favorite
thing so far?
A: Actually, I really like singing the song that we are getting
ready to do for the concert later. Its In the Wild. We sing it and
those are my favorite days. He smiles and looks back in to the
Q: Is there anything else about you that I should know? What do
you like to do for fun?
A: I love soccer. My friends and I always play soccer. Im a sports
dude. He looks back in to the classroom. Music is fun, though.

Andy seemed to really enjoy talking to me about music, though I didnt

get him to open up as much as I had hoped. However, he wasnt
restless or bored; he was insightful from beginning to end. Andy is very
close to his family, and from what he told me, they appear to be very
supportive of anything he chooses to do in his free time. There is no
doubt in my mind that Andy is being nurtured and encouraged to do

creative things outside of school. I really got the impression that he is

the type of child who could probably end up doing anything. He is wise
beyond his years. While I would most certainly classify him as a fairly
normal or familiar type of child, he thinks very differently than his
classmates. As I mentioned before, he loves to interject and present his
seemingly abstract, out of the box thoughts whenever possible. As I
listened to him respond to questions and prompts in class, I tried to
imagine how I might address his commentary. Mrs. Blacker often
thanked him for his words and quickly moved on, but there were a few
instances in which she took Andys ideas and presented them to the
class. She asked his classmates what they thought. Many of them drew
from his abstract ideas. My primary concern, taking the standpoint of a
teacher who will likely have a child like Andy in the future, is that while
his comments may relate to and briefly address/answer the question at
hand, they dont necessarily indicate that he has a grasp on the
concepts that are black and white. Of course, there are a variety of
ways to assess his actual understanding. I think that it is really
important to let him have a voice in class, especially when he is so
willing to share it. As a teacher, I would not want him to feel that his
comments are wrong or unwelcome, because he does make many very
astute observations. From what Andy told me about his home life, it
sounds like his parents create a very open environment for him to
speak his mind in, and that is likely one of the biggest reasons why he

is so comfortable speaking in the classroom. Altogether, Andy is an

incredibly unique individual. I feel that I have personally benefitted
from watching him interact with his classmates and the environment
as a whole. He is clearly a very outspoken, passionate individual with
interests that span across the board. He is not necessarily focused on
music in his current stage of life, but he does experience it and enjoy it
outside of the classroom. Watching him has definitely given me a
better idea of how a teacher might respond to different learners with
different personalities.