Creating Harmonious Educational Experiences

Anyone who has served in an instructional role can attest to the fact that you feel an immense responsibility for your pupils’ education. During my time working with the Cyzner Institute, a school for students with special-needs, I felt even more pressure t
o make sure everything I did was perfect, for so many other aspects of the education system had failed Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.43.26 PMthese students.

In order to give them a complete educational experience, I wanted to expose the Cyzner students to high school students who could provide a new perspective for them. Therefore, I organized an event where students from Tri-M, my high school’s music honor society, play music and talk about the impact music has on their lives with Cyzner students.

Leading up to the event, I was unsure how successful it would be. In past years, Tri-M adhered to a rather regimented schedule of events, so I did not know how many people would be able to participate in this new event. I originally thought it would be a small gathering, with perhaps four or five Tri-M members playing a piece of music and then conversing with the Cyzner students. Fearful that I would not even have that small number of volunteers, I spent the weeks leading up to this event excessively promoting it at Tri-M meetings and on our online site. A couple days before, however, I glanced at the sign-up sheet and saw that over twenty people had signed up, and the numbers probably only stopped because there were no more lines on the paper.

After dividing the volunteers into shifts, I was ready. On a cold October day last year, we huddled in the cramped music classroom and prepared to share our love of music. Even though the open space was only a little bigger than an good-sized dining room table, we tried to fit a class of Cyzner students and Tri-M members in the classroom. There were so many kids, however, that we moved to the main lobby in the middle of the school, which then attracted an even larger audience of passing students and teachers.
This music appreciation day was a resounding success built on the beauty of seemingly insignificant moments. I listened to an all-state violinist play the quarter note melody to “Under the Sea” with the same power as any classical concerto. With his off-beat dance to “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” one of the six-year old, severely autistic boys that I work with was able to express himself more in two minutes of music than two weeks of academic lessons, art projects, and playground time. My trepidations about the success of this event were completely subsided, for these worthy children were happy and I knew it.

-Rachel Pomerantz, University of Pennsylvania class of 2019