“We Are the World”

Through the Bloomberg Arts Internship, I started working on July 1st with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture as a Music Teaching Assistant for the English Language Learners Summer Program. The program is for middle school students who have been in the country for three years or less to learn English and Math in the morning, with arts instruction in the afternoon.  At the start of each day, I would set up the music classroom, arrange the attendance sheets for each class, and print materials. Then I would supervise the students during their lunch break, walk a group of them to the music classroom, and take attendance for each period. 

Nayyirah with Teaching Assistants Dillon (right) and Bella (left)

I assisted two teachers, Hafez Kotain who taught Arab and Latin percussion and Javvieaus Stewart who taught singing. The students liked Hafez and Javvieus in different ways. When it came to Hafez, he would talk to the students in Spanish and tell them about his career as a musician. The students were very interested in his lifestyle, they asked inquisitive questions during or after class. Javvieaus brought arts and culture into the classroom.  She picked Spanish, Arabic, and English songs. She also incorporated multiple languages to “We are the World” song. This type of learning has shown me a lot of different ways to get students interested in music. 

Language Barriers

During the program I faced some language barriers. When taking attendance and giving directions some students couldn’t understand me. I didn’t know how to handle these situations. Then my supervisor Ranem Atia told me that the students can translate for each other. Once I realized that, it made my time talking to the students a lot easier. To keep their attention, Javvieaus and I added physical activities like standing up and singing. They played drums to the “ApplePen” song and danced to “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy.”  I would drum and sing along with the students.


One day I taught my supervisor Ranem how to play the darbuka (Arab hand drum). Although I had never played it before, I was able to teach her a few beats given what I had learned from Hafez. I was excited about being able to practice some teaching skills, including demonstrating the viola to the students.  They were so surprised that I played viola and most of them thought it was a violin. I noticed how happy I was playing my viola in this classroom setting after years of playing in large orchestras and small ensembles. Playing the viola in this learning context truly made me feel like an individual again; it reminded me why I started playing the viola. In an orchestra setting, the conductor typically cares more about the number of instruments and not the individual musician.  Being able to get out of my comfort zone, to be able to sing and play the drums, made me think about being a music teacher. 

What’s next?

Nayyirah (right) presenting about SDP Summer Program at Bloomberg Art Internship Program

Through my experience at Al-Bustan, I began to picture what I would like to study in college. Before this summer, I was interested in a dual major in Music Education and Performance because I wanted to be a teacher and performer. Now, I am considering focusing on Music Education with a minor in Cultural Studies.  Being a Teaching Assistant showed me another career path that is more than playing in an orchestra. I love performing, but as a teacher I know I can help students beyond music, such as public speaking and time management. To be an effective educator I would develop a deep understanding of different cultures in order to create a more inclusive and diverse learning community.  I am excited about the next chapter of my studies and hope all that I have learned this summer is a stepping stone for my future as a musician and educator.

Nayyirah Wood
High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Class of 2020
Bloomberg Intern, Summer 2019

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