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[Tobitate Study Abroad Report] Internship at Magic School in Honduras

Japanese (TOYO Global RDS)

Final Report of the Internship in Honduras

Saki Tamura
Regional Development Studies, Senior

 Final Report of the Internship in Honduras Final Report of the Internship in Honduras

Introduction

This is the final report about my internship in San Juancito, Honduras. In 2015, I participated in a volunteer internship program for three months, from June to August. I taught kids, ages 6 to 18, to play musical instruments, such as the recorder and the trumpet. In this report, I will explain how I taught the kids to play musical instruments and to sing in the classes. Besides my teaching experience, I would like to tell you how I felt and what I discovered through my internship.

Preparation

First of all, I will tell you about the scholarship which enabled me to take part in the volunteer internship program in Honduras. The scholarship was provided by the Japan Public-Private Partnership Student Study Abroad Program (In Japanese, it is called the Tobitate Scholarship. (Web site) A feature of this scholarship is that students can make their own plans for their time studying-abroad. It is not necessary for students who applied for the scholarship to study at a university. The Tobitate Scholarship allows them to attempt to do anything they would like to do in a foreign country.

In my case, I had already decided to study abroad as an exchange student at Frostburg State University in the state of Maryland from August, 2014 to May, 2015. In the beginning of April 2014, I found out about this scholarship and came up with the idea of going to one of the Latin American countries after studying abroad in the U.S. I had been interested in having an experience in Latin America since I was a freshman. With great support from my professor, Mr. Hisamatsu, and his friend, Ms. Hiroko Miyakawa, I decided to go to Honduras to learn about the society, economy, people, and culture in that country by teaching music to kids. Fortunately, I got the scholarship and the chance to teach music to kids in Honduras.

Before I studied abroad in the U.S., Ms. Miyakawa put me in contact with Ms. Regina Aguilar. Ms. Aguilar ran a local organization, called the San Juancito Foundation, and I told her that I was interested in working as unpaid intern. I sent her my curriculum vitae (CV), and I received official confirmation that I could do the internship at the San Juancito Foundation. While I was studying abroad in the U.S., I prepared many things for my internship. I planned music lessons in order to teach the kids to sing, as well as to play the piano, the recorder, and the brass instruments. During the second semester at Frostburg State University, I took a music course in order to learn to teach music to elementary school students. Also, I asked my Japanese and international friends to donate their used recorders on Facebook, and I collected twenty recorders to use in the music classes in Honduras. In the end, I was well prepared. I also realized how important it is to consider plans carefully, and to make preparations to do the things that I want to do well in advance. Even so, I did not know exactly what I would do during the internship.

- Trials and Errors – teaching music to kids in Honduras

1st week (June 2ndto 7th, 2015)

San Juancito, where I arrived on June 3rd, is a small and lovely village in Honduras. I fell asleep in the lounge at the airport in San Francisco, so I missed my connecting flight and my arrival in Honduras was delayed. I had to apologize to Ms. Aguilar and everyone who was supporting me, because they were all so worried. During the first few days, I relaxed with my American roommate, Emily, and got over the jet lag. I went to the Magic School, the place where I was going to teach music to kids, so as to finalize the plans and decide how I would teach at the Magic School. Before my visit to San Juancito, several local or foreign volunteers had taught many courses there, such as art, cooking, music, mathematics, and English. Also, I asked some workers in San Juancito to tell me the schedule for the local elementary and secondary schools. After taking the condition of the musical instruments and the school schedules into consideration, I decided to teach the following three classes:

1. A recorder class for kids about 6 to 10 years old (Mondays, Thursdays)
2. A recorder class for teenagers about 11 to 15 years old (Wednesdays, Saturdays)
3. A trumpet class for teenagers about 13 to 18 years old (Tuesdays, Fridays)

Each class was held twice a day in the mornings and afternoons [9:30 and 14:00]. The class schedules in elementary and middle schools differ by grade. I made some posters to advertise my classes on Saturday. I was a little nervous, but excited to start teaching music at the Magic School.

Final Report of the Internship in Honduras

2nd week (June 8th to 14th, 2015)

Final Report of the Internship in HondurasOn Monday, I advertised my music classes in the classrooms at the elementary and middle schools in the morning. It seemed that many kids and students were interested in my classes. I had the first class that afternoon. About 10 kids came to my class. After my introduction, the first thing I did in the class was ask them to write their names on pieces of paper, and I took a photo with each one of them holding a name tag. This helped me to remember their names. After that, I gave each kid a soprano recorder to play using only one hand and I told the kids to play it with only one hand (the other hand held the bottom of the recorder) and I taught each kid how to play three notes (Si, La, Sol). In the case of the trumpet classes, I also explained some basic information about the trumpet briefly. Then, I taught the kids how to use the mouthpiece and to play musical notes randomly, which was not difficult for the kids to do.

Final Report of the Internship in Honduras

During the second class, although new kids also came to the lessons, I began using the “Do-Re-Mi” song in Spanish whenever I had time. Some kids had taken music classes at the Magic School before and were able to play musical instruments, like the recorder and guitar. Others had never attended music classes. After gaining some knowledge about their ages and musical experience, I realized that it was not appropriate to teach all children the same things at the same pace. Also, I understood that not all of them could come to the classes every time, due to their household chores, outside jobs, and other pastimes, like soccer. Because of weather conditions, some kids could not come to the classes. In the second week, many kids came to my classes sporadically, so we went through the same content as we did the previous week.

3rd week (June 15th to 21st, 2015)

The kids and I became comfortable spending time together, but it was sometimes difficult to organize the classes, especially the classes for the younger kids. During my classes, they became very excited, so they ran around the room, they started fighting, and they even left the classroom occasionally. Even the older kids sometimes behaved the way the younger kids behaved. What is more, I could not find a solution to their bad behavior initially. So, I spent more time with the kids, and I paid attention to them carefully. Then, I tried to figure out how kids concentrate and stay motivated in my classes. A few days later, I realized that I might need to change the teaching method a little, depending on their personalities. It was also important that I frequently gave them verbal praise, even when they accomplished little things. That was because most of them did not have any confidence. When I praised them by saying “muy bien (very good)” or “excelente (excellent),” they became very happy and smiled a lot. I kept those two things in my mind.

In the classes for the younger kids, they continued to practice singing the “Do-Re-Mi” song and playing the soprano recorder. Also, I made each class around 30 to 40 minutes long, and I gave them some time to play together or draw pictures after the class. In the classes for the older kids, I taught fingering and how to practice easy songs (between 8 and 16 measures). In the trumpet classes, the kids learned fingering and tonguing. In both the older kids’ classes, I taught them how to read and write notes on a musical sheet.

4th week (June 22nd to 28th)

Final Report of the Internship in HondurasI began teaching new things in the older kids’ classes. In both the recorder and the trumpet classes, they learned the basic notes, such as the whole, half, quarter, and eight notes. I was concerned that the kids would start disliking my music classes when they began learning musical grammar. However, most of them also enjoyed learning about musical grammar. At first, I used flash cards to teach them the fundamental notes, so that the kids could understand the notes visually. After that, I gave them some quizzes, and I taught them to write notes, as well.

I held some music classes for the younger kids, but some of the kids could not come to the music classes due to a local festival. Their school had a different time schedule and they had more homework, so they were not able to spend time attending my classes. Consequently, I did not teach new things. Instead, I reviewed the “Do-Re-Mi” song and fingering on the soprano recorder. During my classes, I tried to take some photos and videos to record the experience.

5th week (June 29th to July 5th)

The older kids continued to learn about musical grammar. I taught the kids the rest notes the same way that I had taught them the basic notes the previous week. It was not very difficult for the kids to understand the rest notes because the kids had already learned the basic notes. Additionally, I gave them several quizzes to test their ability to count the basic and rest notes, and I also taught them to create their own music sheets. I made big posters with information about music grammar on them, so the kids would learn to understand musical grammar better, and so that they could continue to study after I returned to Japan.

My goal for the internship is to enable the kids to give a final concert at the end of August. I have decided that the concert will be held on August 22nd or 23rd, tentatively. The purpose of the concert is to give the kids an opportunity to perform what they have learned in my music classes. Moreover, I hope that they will become more self-confident after the final concert. That is important to me, because, at the beginning of courses, I perceived that the kids did not have much confidence. After the concert, I also hoped that they would become more motivated and attempt to do something that they have always wanted to do.

6th week (July 6th to 12th)

I began teaching the students to play the recorder at the local elementary school. I am teaching the fifth grade class once a week (on Wednesdays after my afternoon class are at the Magic School). It was difficult to organize the class because the number of students was much larger than my classes at the Magic School. The students often left the classroom and started fighting with one another. The fifth grade teacher sometimes supported me when students could not focus on my class, but sometimes she left the classroom for a while. Although I did not have enough recorders, some students had brought their own, and I taught them in pairs. I was very happy that most of the students enjoyed practicing the recorder, and that I could provide an opportunity for those who were living far from the Magic School to take a music class.

Final Report of the Internship in HondurasAfter the end of a local festival, which some of the younger kids wanted to attend, the younger kids started coming to the classes regularly, and I gave a class on making musical instruments. I had started planning this class at the end of the previous month, and I finally did it. While I was studying abroad in the U.S., I took a music course called “Music and Creative Interaction for the Elementary Classroom Teacher.” I learned various methods of teaching music. Making musical instruments was one of them. Generally-speaking, it was easy for the younger kids to lose their concentration when they only practiced playing musical instruments during the class. Consequently, I had the kids practice the recorder for about 15 minutes, and then I gave them time to make musical instruments. In this class, the kids made creative drums using familiar materials, such as wood, paper, pieces of steel cans, stones, etc. In addition to making the instruments, they noticed and learned how the sounds changed when they put different materials inside a steel dram, for example. After this class, I realized that it was better to combine other music-related activities with instrument practice while teaching kids.

7th week (July 13th to 19th)

I went to the local elementary school to teach the fifth grade class to the fifth grade. I reviewed the soprano recorder and started teaching the “Do-Re-Mi” song. At that time, I realized that many girls were too shy to practice the recorder. Even though I gave them a chance to play, some of them were not willing to play. Also, I sometimes asked the class questions, but most of the answers were given to me by the boys. I felt that I needed to give the girls more opportunities.

In the younger kids’ classes, the students started to sing a song called “La Araña Pequenita” (“Itsy Bitsy Spider” in English). At first, I introduced the song and then I asked them to repeat it. After they could sing the song, I asked them to draw a picture of a spider. In the older kids’ class, the students began playing a more difficult song that had two parts. The song was “Yankee Doodle,” but I arranged it as a two-part song. During the 7th week, most of the kids practiced only the first (main) part, because I did not want to confuse them and make them dislike practicing the song. But some kids were able to practice the other part, too, if they told me that they wanted to. In the older kids’ classes, some of the students started practicing a new song by themselves. Most of the kids understand basic musical grammar, so they were able to practice songs without my support.

8th week (July 20th to 26th)

In the trumpet class, the kids had already learned the basic scale (C major), so they practiced playing short songs. Most of the kids attended both the trumpet and recorder classes, and I found that some of them were more interested in the recorders (the soprano and Alto recorders). Subsequently, I decided that the kids would only play the recorder at the final concert in August. I decided that I would continue to teach them to play the trumpet, but that I would spend more time teaching them to play the recorder. I also decided that most of the kids would play the recorder individually during the final concert.

In the elementary school, I taught the fifth grade students the musical notes and reviewed the “Do-Re-Mi” song. We also practiced playing the soprano recorder a little. I taught the sixth graders at the local school, as well. The sixth grade class was smaller compared to the fifth grade class. At first, I taught them the “Do-Re-Mi” song and then I taught them to play the soprano recorder a little. Those students tended to concentrate more on my classes than the fifth graders did, so they were able to learn lots of things in a short time.

9th week (July 27th to August 2nd)

Final Report of the Internship in HondurasIn the older kids’ classes at the Magic School, the students practiced other songs. At that time, some of them were able to play about four songs. I realized that the more songs they practiced, the less time they spent learning new songs. Also, they acquired the ability to practice the songs by themselves. Outside regular class hours, I invited the students to practice at the Magic School, before or after their classes. Consequently, some kids were able to practice the songs even when they could not attend my classes. Even if it was just for a short time, they often came to the school and practiced the recorder.

In the fifth grade at the local elementary school, I explained again how musical notes should be read, and some students did not understand. I encouraged them to practice reading the musical notes by themselves, I encouraged the students who did understand to help the others by quizzing them. The sixth grade students also learned to read musical notes. Even though they had never studied the subject before, most of the students understood it well.

10th week (August 3rd to 9th)

In the younger kids’ classes, the students practiced singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in Spanish. Some of them already knew the song, but the lyrics were a little bit different. I asked them to tell me the lyrics which they knew, and then I changed them a little. When I taught them this song, I also used some body language exercises. They enjoyed practicing it very much. Practicing a song using gestures is more fun for kids. That is something I also learned when I took the music education course in the U. S. A.. In addition, I told the kid’s families about the final concert. The students made the formal invitation letters for their parents.

Final Report of the Internship in HondurasOn Saturday, after my classes, the kids through a surprise birthday party for me. They had already said “Happy Birthday” (“Felicidad” or “Feliz Cumpleaños” in Spanish) to me, so I did not expect anything else. However, they played “Happy Birthday” on the recorder, which I had taught them several weeks before. After they played the song, we ate a whole fruit cake which Ms. Regina had prepared. It was a wonderful experience for me to spend my birthday with them.

11th week (August 10th to 16th)

During the 11th week, I prepared a student’s profile table using Excel, and I inputted the information about the students. I wrote a progress report about each student. I made the report because other volunteers were planning to visit San Juancito and teach music at the Magic School after I left. I hoped that the kids would continue to learn music.

For the final concert next week, I made a program. Also, the kids and I decided together which songs they would play. In addition, I talked about the place where the concert would be held with Ms. Regina. The San Juancito Foundation has a nice stage, but I felt that the kids would become too nervous because they always practiced at the Magic School. Consequently, I decided that the concert will take place at the Magic School.

12th week (August 17th to 23rd)

On Wednesday, the elementary school students had their last classes. In the fifth grade class, I taught the most difficult fingerings (Do and Re on the soprano recorder), while the sixth grade students continued practicing the “Itsy Bity Spider” song. I took some photos in both classes, and the students looked so happy in the music classes. Normally, they have a music class at their local school, but they do not practice playing any musical instruments because not all the students are able to buy instruments. Thus, I was pleased that I was able to teach them to play the instruments even if I was only able to teach them for two months. It was also a precious opportunity for me to teach music in a local elementary school.

Final Report of the Internship in HondurasThe final concert was held on Saturday. That was also the last day of the classes. During this week, the kids came to the Magic School and practiced a lot. I was a little worried about the final concert because I taught the kids would be too nervous to perform in front of their families and friends. However, I did not need to worry about that. When the kids played the recorder, I was in another room behind them. Even though a lot of people (the kids’ families, their friends, and Ms. Regina’s associates) were at the concert, the kids performed very well. I listened to each performance carefully, and each performance reminded me of every single day of my stay in San Juancito. After the concert, each kid gave me a single flower and a nice message. I was so happy and proud of them. I will never be able to forget that day.

Conclusion

This concludes the report of my activities. Every day during my internship, I discovered something new, and I learned to understand something from a different perspective. As you may realize after reading this, I was sometimes faced with tough situations, and I had some problems during my internship. The point is there are no correct answers for these kinds of challenges. I always believed in doing what was “better” not “best.” That is why the title of the diary section of this report is “Trials and Errors.”

Last but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who supported me during the internship, especially Professor Hisamatsu, Ms. Hiroko Miyakawa, and Doña Regina. I would not have been able to have this wonderful experience without their great support. I am so appreciative.

Thank you for reading my final report. ¡Muchas gracias por su atención!