Music education majors speak a universal language

How often do you hear from a Texas Wesleyan music education major? Probably not that often.

That is because, according to Janna McKinley, the Department of Music’s music coordinator, there are only 57 music majors, and only 38 of them are studying music education.

Several music education majors said there is a lot that they wish others knew about their field of study.

“It’s so much more than just being in an ensemble,” said Drenda Burk, a senior and music education major. “There is so much more than goes into it. In our degree plan, we cannot even take a GEC course until we are sophomores, or going into our junior year because we have so many required music classes that we have to have.”

Burk said that after you add in the education side on top of the music requirements, you are basically getting two degrees in one.

Senior and music education major Emily Messenger said that music education majors always take at least 18 hours a semester, with ensemble being a zero credit course.

Messenger said that she was bullied a lot in high school, but music was that one thing that gave her confidence.

“It gave me a way to express my feelings, and I was pretty good at what I was doing,” Messenger said. “My senior year of high school I joined every single choir we had — whether I was supposed to be in it or not — and was basically able to be a TA [teaching assistant] in beginning choir, so that’s when I got to see the education side of things.”

Burk said that the music education major at Wesleyan has provided her with a variety of opportunities to succeed outside of her particular interests.

“You don’t really get that in a bigger school, and here — being in such a small department — we have the unique opportunity to be in several different groups,” Burk said. “I had never sung before in my life before college, and I got to be in the choir, which in turn helped me in all other aspects of music.”

Messenger and Burk said that music education majors sometimes struggle to fit into the education department, as well as differentiate the content between music and education courses.

“We have to be able to put content in their terms,” Burk said. “Dr. (Kary) Johnson does a phenomenal job incorporating music, and has been very accommodating to us, which is not necessarily always the case.”

Johnson, an adjunct professor of education, wrote in an email that she finds her music education students to be a delight. They are creative and have taught her so many aspects of reading and literacy that can be taught through music.

“I want my students to be able to integrate what they are learning in my class with their own practice in the real world, so my courses and assignments allow flexibility for students to make learning their own,” Johnson wrote. “ Reading is in everything. So is music. Personally, I am so grateful for music educators.”

Messenger and Burk love that through obtaining their music education degree, they can speak a universal language.

“You can communicate the same feelings or emotions through music whether you speak the same language or not,” Burk said. “I love that fact. The reality that I can touch somebody who I wouldn’t normally be able to touch and that apply to education. To touch and inspire students, it’s a feeling unlike anything else.”

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Education students, faculty divided on DeVos confirmation

After weeks of high tension between Republicans and Democrats, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the new Education Secretary earlier this month.

DeVos’ controversial appointment has produced divided opinion among Texas Wesleyan University’s School of Education faculty and students. While some are skeptical about her qualifications and how well she will perform, others believe her influence will be limited.

Dr. Joe Dryden, associate professor of education, wrote in an email that DeVos, who is a major proponent of vouchers, will not have as much of an impact on graduating education students as “the fear mongering would suggest, for several reasons.”

Dryden wrote that DeVos’ influence will be a “relatively small blip on the radar. Large organizational bureaucracies have protective buffers and the alligators in the swamp will not go quietly; they will resist at all cost.”

Dr. Twyla Miranda, director of the Ed.D. program, wrote in an email that while DeVos may bring some good new ideas to the table, she will be watching her work and agenda closely.

“She has much to learn about education laws and public schools,” Miranda wrote. “I think most people were against her appointment due to her interest and lack of qualifications. Her appointment seemed to be a prize for her wealthy donations rather than a choice for a dedicated, knowledgeable educator.”

Texas State Teachers Association President Ariel Deen, an EC-6 education student, declined to comment on the issue, but TSTA Vice President Ashley Reynolds believes that anyone in a high position in education, including school administrators, should have had public teaching experience, and is concerned with DeVos’ lack thereof.

“I believe that her stance could potentially affect teachers, especially first-year teachers in the education field,” Reynolds wrote in an email. “I am worried that the field could become very competitive, and so much of a hassle that we could lose good teachers for our students.”

Senior education major Nicole Gillihan, who is currently completing her clinical teaching hours at Southwest Christian School, agreed with Reynolds’ concerns. DeVos, she said, has no education background.

“None. Period,” Gillihan said. “That’s a problem, and a pretty basic, well-understood concern.”

Gillihan expects to work in the public school system once she graduates this spring. However, while she has not spent much time contemplating how DeVos’ confirmation might impact her, she said that public school teachers are “very unhappy with this.”

School of Education Dean Dr. Carlos Martinez is taking a more neutral approach to DeVos’ confirmation.

“We have gone through a lot in education in Texas, especially as it related to funding,” Martinez said. “Our students may be entering a more difficult market, but if that happens, it will take a number of years to unfold. The only thing I know for sure is that there are cycles, and in my 25 years here I have seen very many of them, and there are ups and downs.

“Some years are really difficult, and others not so much, but as long as education is tied to politics, we are going to be in the middle of it all. It would be great to be in chemistry, but that is what we do for a living. We just help our students get to where they need to be.”

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