Choir instructor Sandy Brown will help create new guidelines for all educators
A laminated sheet of nine guidelines is tapped to a desk at the front of Sandy Brown’s choir classroom in Plymouth Middle School.
This sheet contains the National Arts Standards, which are a set of curricular requirements from the National Association of Music Education that are drafted every decade to ensure students will receive the highest degree of education possible from districts around the country.
Brown will help to write the next set of standards by which all music education course work in America will be measured.
Brown was selected out of hundreds of nominees to serve on a committee that will spend the next two years refining the guidelines.
“When we use these, they’re supposed to be our template, our overarching outline,” Brown said. “Everything we do should fall under one of these things. And if it doesn’t, we shouldn’t be teaching it.”
Brown lives in Brooklyn Park and has been teaching since 1993. For the past four years, she has been teaching choir to the students of Plymouth Middle School.
The nearly 10-year-old standards taped to Brown’s desk will be picked apart and revised through the work of Brown and a number of subcommittees. The 1994 version of the National Arts Standards emphasize student improvement through individual and group work.
Brown said that she plans on keeping many of the standards and possibly fine- tuning them, but also bringing them up to today’s world.
“I hope that we can start to include technology more,” Brown said. “There’s so much more now that I do with technology. And I hope that we can understand its role in enhancing music, obviously that wasn’t done in 1994.”
She doesn’t know for sure, but Brown speculates that faculty from St. Olaf College nominated her for the honor.
Brown has previously worked to rewrite the Praxis test, which is a final examination for teaching students coming out of college and entering the education field. And she said she has frequently participated in student teaching evaluation, which is why she assumes St. Olaf had a hand in her nomination.
Regardless of how it came to be, Brown said she is excited to start the intensive process that will be completed via the Internet with educators from all over the nation.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of it,” she said. “It’s fun to do that kind of high-level thinking with other teachers because we don’t often get to do so when we’re down here in the trenches. It’s fun to sit with people and think about why we do what we do.”
She also said that in light of economic uncertainty and recent budget cuts focused on arts education, she’s proud to belong to Robbinsdale School District because of the attention it gives to the arts.
“Because the arts work different parts of the brain in education, it’s vital to keep them,” she said. “A lot of kids succeed in these kind of programs when they don’t succeed elsewhere, and that’s part of keeping them in school. I think it’s the last place we should cut.”
Her participation in writing the new National Arts Standards is in line with her life’s passion: teaching.
“I love forming the relationships with the kids,” she said. “[Middle school] is kind of a make-it or break-it time in their lives; one where they could either begin a successful path or just kind of slide down a rocky road. I feel like I play a big part in that.”
Work has yet to begin on the new standards. However, when it does and when it is finished, you can count on Brown to carefully laminate and tape them to the desk in the front of her classroom. And you can assume she will show up each day to teach her students the beauty of music under those guidelines.