What I Have Learned in My First Year Being Natural

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Me as a baby! Ball was life. Circa 1999

I stopped using relaxers in May 2015 and did the big chop (cutting off bits and pieces over a span of two weeks, but a big chop nonetheless) in July 2016, not knowing much about my own hair texture. The last time my hair was worn in its natural state, I wasn’t even old enough to do my own hair– I was no older than seven or eight. Furthermore, I had just finished my senior year of high school by the time I did the big chop, meaning that at seventeen years old, the majority of my life had been spent with relaxed hair.

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Me, still a baby. I think I’m crying? Circa 1999

For any black or Latina woman returning to the curls after years of chemical processing, there is definitely a learning curve for your new style, which ultimately has great effects on your identity as well. It’s never just hair, which I learned quickly.

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Faith (currently 20), Charity (currently 23), and me from left to right. Circa 2001

1. There is a stigma against natural hair.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, isn’t curly hair in general considered less beautiful than straight hair?

Well, yes. But if you have Type 4 hair, then you know that there is more to it than that. It’s unprofessional. It’s untidy. It’s gross. These are all things that I have heard about natural hair. Even worse? Some of the most hurtful reactions I have gotten about my hair in the last year have been from black women.

Living in a house of all women (okay, there’s one man… my dad), you’re going to find hair. You just will. And you can always tell who it belongs to. Short, thin, straight hairs belonging to my mother, my eldest sister’s wavy caramel hair lining the sink in her bathroom, my older sister’s long relaxed hair clogging our shower drain. This is just accepted as the norm. I mean, obviously we sweep and all, but you know what I mean.

However, I noticed that when I went completely natural, I received a lot of complaints when I left even one or two hairs in the sink before work in the morning (which I am usually running late for). “Stop leaving your disgusting hairs in the sink” is a common statement that my sister would often frustratingly say. When I questioned why she referred to it as “disgusting,” she claimed she thought that about all types of hair.

However, one day she told me that my hair looked like pubic hair.

She would never have said that about straight, wavy, or even curly hair. This is a comment that specifically referred to my 4b/c coils, and proves just how prejudiced people are still conditioned to be against natural hair. I mean, heck– my sister herself is black, and the fact that she could say something so… well, kinda racist, proves the point that there definitely is still a stigma against natural hair. However, you must learn to ignore it. I love my hair, and I’m not changing it for anyone.

Life Lived in G Major

2. People will say weird things about your hair and/or touch it.

People have said that my hair looks like a sea sponge, one of my first-graders at a field experience patted down my “poofy hair,” people have looked at me in utter confusion, asking, “how does your hair do that?”

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I don’t know what was going on with the left puff. It kinda did look like a sea sponge. Circa 2006

I’m not offended, though. These people do so without malicious intent. In fact, sometimes the awkward things people say about natural hair are actually intended to be compliments. And in terms of touching black women’s hair: don’t, or at least ask first. I honestly don’t mind when people touch my hair, so long as they 1) ask first and 2) don’t complain if the oil-or-cream-of-the-day gets on their hand.

march 09

There is so much wrong with this picture. Out of view I’m wearing boot-cut jeans and a white tee under this shirt, but I can only take so much embarrassment. I mean, we’re all thinking it: I looked like Dora. March 2009

3. Don’t shop by hair texture.

When I started transitioning, I became familiar with my hair type: 4b/c. However, there are so many other things to take into consideration– porosity, color treatment, thickness, length– the list goes on. This goes to say that just because a product works on your favorite beauty blogger (my favorite is Ana Lidia Lopes) does not necessarily mean it will work for you.

grade 8

There were much more cringe-worthy photos from middle school, believe me. This was actually a good day for me; I saw For King & Country in concert. March 2012

The Curl Enhancing Smoothie? I’m so mad that I spent more than ten dollars on it; it weighs my hair down. It’s just way too thick for me. But I thought that since literally everyone was talking about it, it must work pretty well, right? Yeah, no. I mean, it is a good product. Just not for me.

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Singing at the 2012 National Fine Arts Festival. That’s temporary dye, because you know, I was thirteen. August 2012

4. Your hair is going to grow rapidly.

A friend of mine recently sent me a picture of the two of us shortly after I did the chop, and I can’t believe my hair was ever that short. Now, looking in the mirror, I can definitely see progress. In fact, if I didn’t trim my hair so often (about every 2-3 weeks), my hair would be even longer than it is now.

When I was regularly relaxing my hair, I would often complain that my hair just wasn’t growing. The closer it got to shoulder-length, the more it snapped off. In fact, throughout middle and high school, I often alternated between pixie cuts and bobs; my hair was rarely longer than chin-length.

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I’m a thirteen-year-old freshman here. September 2012

Now, however, my hair is past my shoulders when stretched, and this could be due to multiple factors. First of all, taking care of my hair is so much more fun now that I have an Afro, so I put more effort into moisturizing, washing, and detangling (well, the detangling part might not be 100% true). Second, I have not even touched a flat iron since I chopped off my relaxed ends. Third, I utilize low-manipulation styles, often putting my hair up with a headband or bandana, or wearing it in a protective style. Finally, now that my hair has no chemicals in it, naturally it will be more healthy than processed hair. Because of this, my hair has seemingly grown at an exponential rate.

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I used a curling set to get this faux-natural look. Freshman year I kinda began transitioning (I stopped relaxing for a minute there) but ultimately went back to the creamy crack a few months later. Winter 2013

5. What worked during transition may not work post-BC.

This really took me by surprise. At some point during my year-long transition, I got tired of waking up super early to straighten my hair every single day. At this point, I began pinning my hair up in (extremely lazy) halo twists while using Cantu coconut curling cream.

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We’re just gonna skip ahead to my transition. This was at the start of my senior year. I was sixteen. October 2015

That stuff. Man. I was obsessed with it. I swore by it. But after I did the big chop, I noticed it wasn’t really working too well on my hair anymore. My hair hardly seemed to respond to it; the only benefit was that it smelled good.

may 2016

My pathetic attempt at halo twists. At this point, I was so done with transitioning, but I wanted to wait until after my friend’s wedding. May 2016

I knew that my curl pattern might change after the chop, but I didn’t expect my virgin hair to respond so differently from the rest. Perhaps my relaxed hair responded so well because it was very porous, due to heat and chemical damage. Whereas, the new growth was normal- to low-porosity. It is almost as if two completely different types of hair used the same product, and therefore got different results.

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I tried to crop my girl Bri out of the picture. Since I didn’t ask her permission to post this, but ya know. Look at me and my seventeen-year-old Baldwin Wallace-bound self!

6. Different seasons call for different products.

In custards, styling creams, in oils, in cups of curl cream, in inches, brushes, in bottles, in trims. In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure a year with a ‘fro?

me as a bridesmaid

“I can’t wait to go home and cut this all off.” June 25, 2016

Excuse me while I off-key belt all of Joanne’s lyrics from “Seasons of Love.” I noticed that many of my products that I loved during the cooler months seemed to be overkill during the summer months. For my low-to-normal porosity, 4b/c, short-medium length hair, this is what has worked best:

Summer: Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Souffle (Shea Moisture), Twist & Lock Gel (Cantu), a spray bottle with water and castor oil, Coconut Jamaican Black Castor Oil, cinnamon and olive oil mixture, macadamia oil. Utilize cornrows to like, lower the temperature on your scalp.

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Seventeen-year-old me starting my freshman year at Baldwin Wallace! Natural for more than a month now. Circa August 2016

Fall: Rosemary Jamaican Black Castor Oil, Coconut Curling Cream (Cantu), cinnamon and olive oil mixture, Comeback Curl (Cantu). Utilize twists and puffs, if your hair is long enough. Mine wasn’t long enough last fall, but this time, it will be.

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Me after attending a Hillary Clinton rally. Circa October 2016

Winter: Peppermint oil, tea tree oil, coconut oil, Peppermint Jamaican Black Castor Oil… basically, shower without a cap and seal with a heavy oil and/or butter every night. Wear lots of hats and scarves with a plastic cap underneath to keep the moisture in.

winter hair

I may or may not have made this horrible-quality photo my FB profile picture… Christmas Eve 2016

Spring: Spray bottle with water and castor oil, leave-in conditioner (Cantu), olive oil hairspray (Proclaim), EcoStyler gel. A “wash ‘n go” will usually work best in the springtime, in my opinion.

spring hair

Celebrating my friend Anne’s nineteenth birthday at her school, Kent State. March 2017

7. Protective styles save lives, yo.

I might be exaggerating. But if there’s anything I should have done more of this past year, it’s protective styling… and detangling.

I’m lazy. I really am. At least when it comes to detangling and styling my hair. This is why I usually just put on a headband and call it a day (irresponsible, I know!). You can imagine how many single-strand knots I’ve had to cut out of my hair. My hair has managed to grow at a pretty fast rate nonetheless, which proves that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have the talent to braid/twist your own hair or the money to either pay someone else to do it or purchase weave/braids. But still, it would have been much easier to manage (and I would have had longer hair) if I used protective styles more often.

8. Always, always wear a headscarf.

It doesn’t matter how tired you are. Put. It. On. Just like you’ve gotten into the habit of wearing deodorant and brushing your teeth, be sure to make a habit of this. Getting too drunk to properly protect your hair at night is not a smart move. Not that I know this from experience or anything, but… it’s just not. Your hair will be matted beyond belief. Which leads to the next point…

9. Do not sleep with an Afro.

I did this pretty much all year, and like I said, I had a lot of tangles that could have been avoided. If you don’t have time to keep twisting and re-twisting, buy a pack of tiny combs to separate and elongate your sections at night. That definitely helped to keep my hair stretched out.

10. Scalpicin will get you through those last couple days before wash day.

You know the feeling, especially if you have a sensitive scalp like yours truly. You just washed your hair two days ago, your style is looking on fleek. But. You scratch that first itch with the tip of your fingernail, and before you know it, the rest of your scalp is on fire, too (cue “Girl on Fire,” written and performed by the singer-songwriter Alicia Keys). Your scalp is YELLING– no, SCREAMING at you to shampoo it. “PLEASE, girl, PLEASE!” But you can’t. And you ran out of tea tree oil yesterday, so all you can do is pray.

Well, buy Scalpicin from Wal-Mart and you will never have to know this agony ever again. I’ve been using it on-and-off since I was a baby, so I know it works.

11. Dry your hair with a t-shirt, NOT a towel.

The soft fabric of shirts will keep from tearing any delicate strands.

12. You might find yourself stuck after six months or so.

I’m going to be honest here. My hair has been stuck at shoulder-length for a long time now. Considering that this time last year my hair was only a tad bit longer than John Legend’s, this might come across as a little dramatic. Even so, it’s still annoying that I still can’t seem to fit my hair into a puff. We’ll see with time if my hair gets past this.

13. Castor oil is magic on bald spots.

Be aware of how long you keep your protective styles in, because braids can be tough on your edges. However, if you happen to misjudge how long your style should be in and end up snapping off some edges as a result, all you need to do is massage in some castor oil for a few days and it’ll be back.

AND THE FINAL LESSON: SET GOALS!

As I wave goodbye to my first year and hello to a second year of being 100% natural, here are some things that I hope will happen.

  1. I will begin working out more (2-3 times per week), especially focusing on cardio.
  2. I will begin watching what I eat. I plan on eating protein and carbs before workouts and salads and vegetables/fruits after workouts. On days I do not go to the gym, I will allow myself to eat more normal food.
  3. I will use the inversion method more often when oiling my scalp.
  4. I will thoroughly detangle my hair both before AND after washing.
  5. I will find a wash day regimen that works for my schedule.
  6. I will learn how to do more hairstyles.
  7. I will stop comparing myself to other naturalistas with “good hair.”
july 2017

One year of owning my ethnicity and loving my hair! July 2017

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The Inclusion of Individuals with Exceptionalities in Education

Background of Inclusion

Historically, the inclusion of students with exceptionalities in schools actually begins with the inclusion of non-white students in integrated public schools, as was mandated by the famous case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Acknowledged as one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions in American history, the Court’s unanimous decision led to the banning of segregation in public schools. This decision was made due to segregation violating the Equal Protection Clause and Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore the application of segregation was deemed discriminatory and unconstitutional. Furthermore, the separate institutions for white and African-American children were inherently unequal; black children in segregated schools had lower self-esteem than their white peers, which led psychologists to the conclusion that separation in itself leads to dangerous inferiority complexes that may have an adverse effect on the success of black children in academics (McBride). Ultimately, the decision did not immediately succeed in desegregating schools, it still set the foundation for more cases that would follow in its footsteps to support the rights of those who may not have originally been seen as equal under the eyes of the law.

Eleven years later, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as ESEA) addressed the improper treatment of Americans living in poverty, therefore committing to helping lower- and working-class families gain access to quality education. Additionally, the act mandates that funds be used for professional development, instructional materials, educational resources, and to promote the involvement of parents. This act is renewed every five years, adding revisions and amendments (known as titles) during each cycle (Social Welfare). Included in the ESEA series of amendments is Public Law 91-230 (1970), which includes Title VI. Title VI advocates for the education of the handicapped, providing definitions for learning disabilities. Furthermore, the amendment was implemented to encourage adults to complete a high school education through the Adult Secondary Education component (History of the Adult Education Act, 2).

Another amendment to ESEA is Public Law 93-380. This law set procedures and criteria for education, providing funding for programs to aide handicapped, migratory, and delinquent children. Such programs put in place as a result of the law include the National Reading Improvement Program, which funds the use of additional resources to effectively teach students with reading deficiencies and learning disabilities (Perkins).

Public Law 94-142, known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, was established to ensure that children with disabilities have free appropriate public education available, with services designed to meet each child’s individual needs. Furthermore, the act ensured the protection of students’ and families’ rights, assists the states and local school districts in providing appropriate education for disabled children, and assesses the effectiveness of the institution’s efforts to provide an adequate education for students living with disabilities (Archived). This act helps provide the resources evident in the academic system in modern times.

Current Status of Inclusion in the Public School Setting

In today’s educational settings, students with disabilities and impairments are covered under requirements mandated by law. Two of the most common concepts discussed in special education are the plans that students with exceptionalities are able to receive accommodations under: The Individualized Education Plan and the 504 Plan.

The Individualized Education Plan assesses student needs and growth over the course of a designated time period. The information one may find in a student’s IEP includes their current performance or performance at the time of beginning the program, the annual goals that the child can reasonably accomplish within a year, the services that must be provided for the child (e.g. professional development for school faculty in order to assist the student), the student’s integration with non-disabled students, their participation in standardized testing (for example, a secondary school student in Ohio with a severe learning disability may not be required to pass the Ohio Graduation Test in order to graduate), the specific time and duration of when services are provided, transition service needs beginning when the child reaches the age of fourteen, and progress measurement (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). The IEP is commonly used when a student’s disability greatly interferes with their ability to perform in the classroom. For example, if a student is unable to comprehend their math homework due to Dyscalcula, this may greatly affect their ability to pass the course without assistance. However, if a student has a disability such as Asperger’s Syndrome (on the Autism spectrum) that may not have an adverse effect on their performance in the classroom but still leads to social or organizational deficits that make the school setting in general difficult for them, they will not be covered under the IEP. Instead, the student may be covered under the 504 Plan.

The 504 Plan is designed to help students with physical or mental impairments in order to ensure that students are treated fairly. These disorders may affect the student’s ability to walk, breathe, eat, sleep, communicate, see, hear, speak, read, concentrate, or work (Bachrach). Services provided by the 504 Plan to help these students include access to preferential seating, extended time on assignments, verbal and visual aids, excused tardiness or absence, and pre-approved nurse visits. These services provided by the IEP and 504 both strive to make living with disabilities less stressful for both students and their parents, assuring that every student can succeed with the support of their community.

My Experience with Inclusion in Schools

From September 2011 through to May 2016, I was a student at the Dayton Regional STEM School in Kettering, Ohio. Although funded like a typical public school, admission into the institution required the completion of an entrance application, admissions essay, parental explanation of the family’s interest in the school, and submission of Ohio Achievement Assessment scores to ensure the student’s ability to thrive in the academic program. Therefore, the vast majority of the students in my school came from the top quarters of their graduating middle school class, and were proven to have an ability to thrive in the mainstream classroom. However, there were roughly seven students (out of a 2016 graduating class of sixty) who did live with learning disabilities and/or disorders affecting their ability to attend classes. Of these students, the majority of them lived with Dyslexia, Dyscalcula, and Attention Deficit Disorder. The remaining students were covered under a 504 Plan, suffering from Chronic Migraine and similar neurological disorders. These were students who may not have needed academic accommodations, but needed exceptions to be made in other aspects of their education. Such examples include the option to complete frequently missed courses online, the allowance to miss a greater amount of school days than the average student (exceeding 20 absences), exemptions from certain class projects, and extended due dates in the event of a student’s inability to meet the original deadline due to hospitalizations and other extenuating circumstances. The students covered under the Individualized Education Plan had access to all of these resources, as well as having extended assessment time, assisted reading of test questions, and guidance in planning their assignments and responsibilities. Students under both plans were given access to a resource room which they had access to during their homeroom and study hall periods. However, all of the students were enrolled in mainstream courses.

One critique that could be made of the Dayton Regional STEM School’s policies regarding special education affairs is that it is insensitive to student privacy. Students would often be removed from their classroom for testing in non-discrete ways and teachers were (although not intentionally) vocal about who was receiving a “modified” exam, thus giving the students little to no confidentiality for their own academic records and progress. Therefore, although inclusion in the public school setting has come a long way, there is still a long way to go.

Inclusion Classroom Design

When designing the classroom structure, it is important to consider the educator’s personal behaviors as well as the behaviors of those in the classroom. One must keep a positive mindset about the abilities of all students; a student having a disability may be a hindrance to their goals, but it does not render them impossible. Therefore, it is important to respect the student’s goals and capabilities, encouraging them while also advocating for their comfort in the classroom. This means that educators must have a zero-tolerance policy for the harassment of students with disabilities in and out of the classroom, must respect the student’s confidentiality (therefore not discussing a student’s disability with others without their consent), and educating the entire classroom on diversity. Furthermore, it is important to respect the student’s personal identity by addressing them directly. The application of this concept is to call on the student themselves; a teacher should not ask their aide or companion to speak for them or exaggerate speech. This can be considered rude and condescending, even if intended to be helpful. Additionally, when working with hearing impaired students, it is important to always have the mouth faced towards them (and in a well-lit room) so that the student may read their lips (Brown University). Also, it is highly recommended not to require verbal presentations for those with speech or hearing impairments; it is often humiliating to the child. Most importantly, as an educator, it is important to respect the student as an individual. An individual is not defined by their impairment or illness; they are their own person with their own values and cognitions. Therefore, when designing a classroom, it is important to remember to always uphold the most respectful behavior.

Reflection

Through what I have learned about diversity and inclusion in school settings, I have come to the conclusion that as educators, it is of the utmost importance to be careful in how academic and administrative decisions affect the students’ ability to succeed in school. Students with specific learning, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities must be treated with the same amount of dignity and respect as their non-disabled peers, and therefore in order to ensure that students received the best education and transition services possible in order to become a contributing member of society when they graduate and/or reach the age of 21, educators and administrators must be sure to engage in professional and personal development to ensure that their knowledge expands. Furthermore, I have learned that I believe in assessing students based off of progress, in lieu of solely based upon accuracy. While accuracy is highly important, I believe that a student improving from consistently receiving scores of 40% should be celebrated for raising their scores to 70%, rather than being punished with low marks on report cards for not scoring high “enough.” Rather, I want my students to understand that it is persistence that will lead them to success someday, and that progress is always a great place to start.

Works Cited

ARCHIVED – Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA– Pg 10. (2016, April 27). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/idea35/history/index_pg10.html

Bachrach, S. J. (Ed.). (2016, September). 504 Education Plans. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/504-plans.html

Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/resources-teaching-students-disabilities/interacting-students-disabilities

Guide to the Individualized Education Program. (2007, March 23). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html?exp=0#contents

McBride, A. (2006, December). Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_brown.html

Perkins, C. (1974, August 21). H.R.69 – 93rd Congress (1973-1974): Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/93rd-congress/house-bill/69?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22pl%2B93-380%22%5D%7D&r=1

Social Welfare History Project (2016). Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/education/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965/

History of the Adult Education Act: A Preview. (1991). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/anniv40/silver-a.pdf

Personal Development as a Student Music Therapist

Music Therapy as a Profession

To me, music therapy is a profession dedicated to enhancing the mental, emotional, and physical health of participants through the use of musical interventions. Such interventions may include (but are not limited to) lyric discussion, active music listening (giving the client the option to choose a desired form of music to listen to), neurologic music therapy applications (addressing rehabilitation and maintenance of functional behaviors), guided imagery, and music-assisted relaxation. Interventions for clients are carefully chosen to suit their needs, which is why another important aspect of music therapy is the development of therapeutic rapport between a therapist and client. Through the building of trust and secure attachment, the therapist is given the ability to develop an understanding of their client’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses. As an aspiring student music therapist, my philosophy is that music as therapy is the use of creative methods to make medical and psychotherapeutic experiences more personal and enjoyable for the client, as well as actively affecting the wiring of the nervous system.

Critical Skills for Music Therapists

Musically, every music therapist should develop effective transposition, theoretical, sight reading, and aural skills in order to serve their client effectively. While working in the field, there will be many experiences when a client may want to use a song that the therapist has not previously heard or learned the chords for. However, to maintain professionalism, it is important to communicate to the client that they have a choice in the musical selections used, and that they do not need to worry about the therapist’s ability to perform. Rather, music therapists are by definition professional musicians, and therefore must develop advanced musicianship techniques. If a song that a client wants to hear/play is in a key difficult for the therapist or client to sing/perform, then the therapist must take it upon themselves to transpose on sight, memorizing the key signatures and chord progressions. A music therapist must also use musical elements to communicate transitions, emotions, and key phrases in the music through the use of vocal dynamics (i.e. crescendo to communicate anticipation of the next verse, diminuendo to communicate a change in a story’s theme, etc.), tempo (i.e. accelerando to communicate emotions such as excitement and happiness, ritardando to transition to a song’s cadence, etc.), and instrumental patterns (e.g. the choice to strum or fingerpick on the guitar).

Non-musically, a music therapist must develop self-awareness. Not only must one be aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses, but they must maintain awareness of how their behaviors are reflected in their work. This means an awareness of the vocal dynamics they often speak at, and reflecting upon whether or not it may be too quiet or loud for their population. For example, a geriatric music therapist with a typically quiet voice may want to work towards speaking louder, in hopes of being heard by clients who may be dealing with hearing trouble. Similarly, a therapist with a consistently stoic facial expression may want to participate in improvisation classes or work towards expressing emotions more evidently, especially if they are working with young children who are still developing an understanding of the six basic human emotions.

Critical Traits for Music Therapists

Music therapists must be resilient. As a psychological, medical, educational, dramatic, and musical profession, music therapy is arguably one of the most difficult professions in the nation. As a student, one must complete three practicum experiences, an educational field experiences, a recreational music course, 180 pre-internship hours, the interview of a board-certified therapist, several psychology courses, and music courses on a primary and secondary instrument, all while participating in University ensembles and completing core university requirements. On the way to board-certification, many lose hold of that dream that initially led them to where they are, and they walk away from the profession. However, the dedicated music therapy student will find a way to succeed; they will face the obstacles with confidence and determination, knowing that their efforts will be worth it when they receive their certification and are licensed to work in the community. Furthermore, upon receiving certification, one must also understand when it is beneficial to take a break from working. As a music therapist, Compassion Fatigue is a common occurrence, especially when working in palliative and chronic illness care. However, in order to maintain personal health, it is important for a music therapist to understand the importance of self-care, and remember that although they may have the privilege to work in a career they love, they are still a person separate from their job.

Personal Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Personally, I believe that my most well-developed skills and traits are my optimism and persistence. I am a firm believer in stressing progress rather than comparison when working with others; I want individuals to understand that they do not need to have any prior musical training to participate in therapeutic interventions. Rather, I want them to focus on where they are today, and how much they have grown over the course of treatment. Furthermore, I am persistent. Throughout my entire life, I have been recognized for my work ethic; whenever I have a goal, I put in all of my energy to achieve it. This means that no matter how difficult it becomes, I will find a way to help my client achieve their own goals, and I will make sure to show them that I will do whatever I can to ensure that all needs are met.

As a student music therapist, I believe that my main weakness is my performance anxiety. Anxiety was not a major hindrance to my musical performance originally; however, this past year, it has become a major stumbling block. Both musically and socially, I have found increased difficulty in making eye contact, communicating with peers and professors, initiating conversation, and performing in front of trained musicians. I am unsure if this is the result of an anxiety disorder (as I have avoided psychoanalytic therapy my entire life); however, I plan to begin attending counseling sessions to improve my interpersonal and musical skills to ensure that I am able to continue to pursue music therapy as a profession.

My Future in Music Therapy

While the field of music therapy is highly interesting to me, unfortunately it does not seem likely that I will be continuing in the major. Due to an unsuccessful audition, I will not be able to study here at Baldwin Wallace. Although I could hypothetically audition again in the Fall semester, I do not believe that I will be able to perform well under the pressure of presenting in front of professors whom have previously rejected me. On the contrary, in the event of a successful audition, paying for two extra years of liberal arts college is too difficult financially. Therefore, I am auditioning at Cleveland State University (where I would plan to double major Music Therapy and Education), Wright State University, and Wittenberg University to pursue a Bachelor of Music Education. After, I may consider Post-Baccalaureate studies in order to prepare to take the Board Examination.

Furthermore, I am switching to a Music Education major due to an increased interest in educating children with mild and moderate special needs. After completing a field experience in a fourth grade resource room, I have discovered that I am passionate about teaching young children who live with intellectual disabilities. I want to teach the students how to become musicians as well, rather than solely focusing on using music as an intervention. Therefore, I believe that I may be needed more in the field of education than I am in therapy.

Although I am not continuing in the study of music therapy for the time being, I believe that what I have learned in this course will benefit me greatly as a special needs music teacher someday, in the event that I do not become a music therapist. At any given time in a special education classroom, there will be children with multiple types of disabilities, ranging from Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and other common exceptionalities. Therefore, learning how individuals living with these conditions will aide me in providing the highest quality education and care, showing them that no matter where their musical and non-musical abilities lie, they can always find peace and comfort in music-making. Anyone can learn how to make beautiful music, if only someone gives them the chance.

My Educational Philosophy

Education and school settings are important because they teach the individuals of the future generations the skills and values that may benefit them and their community someday. Ultimately, this is my inspiration for becoming a teacher: serving as a mentor and motivator for all students in the community, so that they may have the opportunity to not only contribute to the existing society, but so that they may also leave the world a better place than it was when they arrived. Some of the key components of education in the school setting include but are not limited to the teaching of the core subjects (mathematics, language arts, natural sciences, and social studies), spiritual and religious curriculum, physical and athletic activity, and embracing cultural and personality diversity. Many of my values are derived from that of existentialism; my personal philosophy is that education in itself serves as a tool to aid children in finding meaning and purpose in their own lives, guiding them to find their own sets of beliefs in lieu of adults directing each child’s learning experience. Furthermore, school settings are important because students are socialized by their peers; additionally, students are known to learn best through discussion and non-lecture activities. Such philosophers that serve as leaders of the theory of existentialism are A.S. Neill and Maxine Greene.

A.S. Neill, the creator of the Summerhill school, created the school in order to encourage children to become independent, making their own decisions on what they want to learn. More recently, Maxine Greene held the belief that it is crucial for students to find meaning in their lives. She was an advocate for the use of humanities and arts in school settings, as they move individuals to become more aware of the world around them (198).

As an educator, I hope to teach my students about how their work will ultimately contribute to the greater good. As an aspiring music educator and therapist, I want to diverge from the standard education that solely focuses on the performance of Western music. Instead, I intend to teach my students Ethnomusicology, how to interpret the poetry of the piece’s lyrics, and how to apply their knowledge to their own life, whether that is through the composition of their own works or an application in an entirely different field of interest. In the classroom, my students will engage in small group discussions with their peers about the course’s material (as well as the music that they listen to in their personal time), present pieces to the class/studio, and participate in group activities such as drum circles and song leading exercises. I will provide the instruments to them (a piano, guitars, percussive instruments, recorders, etc.). In addition, I intend to teach them life lessons that they will encounter anywhere they go, especially the experiences of failure and loss, and how they can survive any dilemma through perseverance. I believe that these are skills that should be taught in schools, so that children can grow into fully-functioning, emotionally intelligent adults who can take the lessons that they learn in school and apply the knowledge to improve their personal life and lives of others.

With the theory of essentialism, it can be inquired whether or not its effectiveness can truly be measured. Therefore, I intend to assess my children’s work through comparing their skills and knowledge with where they were previously, assessing their progress rather than comparing them to where traditional teaching standards think they “should” be. Rather, I believe in using beginning- and end-of-year assessments and performances to measure the effectiveness of my teaching strategies.

Lessons Learned Freshman Year: The Power of Friendship

We’ve all said it about our closest high school friends at some point: “we’re going to be friends forever.”

However, forever is a very long time, and upon graduation, you have to decide which friendships are worth keeping for that long.

So, how do you determine which friendships are worth it? And how do you make sure they last?

skills you should know

1. Make a list prior to graduation or before freshman year of who is on the chopping block.

During the February of my senior year, I had just about had enough with some of the people in my high school. Not that I’m proud of this personality trait, but I keep receipts. On everything. Like, there are some people who I am still mildly mad at over things that happened in elementary school. So, by the end of high school, you can imagine that after five years of knowing these people, I was done with at least half of them.

Luckily, I am still friends with the vast majority of my friend group. However, I will admit that some people who were technically in my group began to get on my nerves for various reasons, and I, being extremely bitter and petty, actually made a list of people I planned on cutting off after graduation. I ended up changing my mind about some of the people on the list, but it still ended up helping me in the long run.

It helped me find out what I value most in a friendship, and how much I am willing to put up with. And if I didn’t notice changes in behavior soon, then I would know that it was time for the relationship to meet its end.

Also, when making the list, be sure to include your reasons for placing the individual on the list. And store it in a safe place, like a journal (for the love of all things good, do NOT use any sort of digital technology).

2. Make a list of acquaintances you don’t want to break contact with.

I can name a lot of people in my graduating class who I wasn’t extremely close with, and perhaps only talked to them because I was always in near proximity to them, but I still genuinely enjoyed their company. I had a friend (if she’s reading this, she knows who she is) who I sat with in my senior year psychology/sociology period. Even though we didn’t hang in the same circles and rarely saw each other outside of school, we often messaged each other Pinterest ideas that we thought the other person would enjoy, tagged each other in Facebook articles, and both loved cake decorating and baking.

I genuinely liked her, but we don’t talk anymore. I haven’t seen her since her graduation party. However, I plan on writing her a letter just to say that I haven’t forgotten her. Same with quite a few of my acquaintances whom I haven’t really been able to see, and quite possibly might not see again. They may not have been my best friend, but they still played a great role in my life, and I want them to know they’re being thought of.

3. Make an effort to meet your closer friends whenever you’re/they’re in town.

Best friends don’t just break apart without a bad falling out or lack of effort. It is possible that your friendship might not be as tight as it once was, but you should still try to maintain it at the very least. And what do you know? You might pick up right where you left off. I have a few friends whom I can go months, or even full calendar years, without seeing or talking to them, and we go right back to the way things were.

Just make an effort to show them that you’re still willing to put in the effort to maintain the relationship. More likely than not, they’ll be thrilled to see you again!

4. Break things off with old friends gently.

Honestly, if some “friends” are placed on the chopping block, you don’t even need to tell them. Unless they’ve really crossed some lines. Then by all means, my petty self is rooting for you.

But I mean, if they really aren’t that bad of a person, but you just don’t vibe with them anymore, then just let it fizzle out. I had some friends that gradually began to get on my nerves over time (not really listening to me, bossing me around, speaking to me like a child, giving backhanded compliments, etc.), but like, I still kinda care about them. I wouldn’t jump in front of a train for them, but I’d say hi to them on the street.

Honestly, I’d just say to ghost them. If they don’t try to reach out to you, then they probably don’t want to continue the friendship, either.

5. Try to make new friends at your job or at your college.

Work is that much more fun when you have a work bestie. At my work study job, I absolutely loved my co-workers and my supervisor. Like, I would invite them to my wedding. Assuming I ever get married. I could just talk about life with them, ya feel?

I have a few close friends at BW as well. I have exactly one friend at Cleveland State (and ding ding ding, he’s a guy from work, so he doesn’t technically count), but I’ll work on that… once I get there. But at BW, my closest friends are Early Childhood Education majors. Honestly, education majors are the best and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. In terms of personality, at least. Yes, even better than music.

Anyway. Try to make new friends, and don’t just stick to those in your major. Make friends who are STEM majors. Make friends who are *groans and rolls eyes* theatre majors. Make friends who are art majors. When you have a diverse potpourri of friends, you will learn so much more.

Furthermore, it is important to make new friends as an adult, while maintaining your childhood ones as well. Maintain your childhood friendships, because those are the people who really shaped you into who you are today. It is much harder to make new friends once you enter the adult world, as schedules get crazier and you’re no longer forced to be around people 24/7. Unless you work in a desk job. Then um. You might be forced to see people 40 hours a week.

But my point is, it will never be as easy to make friends as an adult as it was as a kid. So treasure the friendships you have, and try not to let them fade.

On that same note, know that you will not always have your friends from high school, and not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. So always be open to new individuals.