Nicole Guimaraes

Britt Elementary School, Snellville GA

Observe, learn from, and participate in classes at the Music Enlightenment Project in Johannesburg, South Africa, to develop strategies for working with youth from low income areas in an instrumental music classroom setting.

Where I've Been

  • Johannesburg, South Africa

My Fellowship in Images

This is a photo of the Dandora dumpsite in the Korogocho slum. The students at St. John's Primary School and Ghetto Classics have a constant view of it. It often catches fire because of the chemicals. It is the largest dump site in East Africa.
These are the students of Mukuru. It is another incredibly dangeous slum. They just started playing recorders a few months before I arrived but are already very advanced. They are so passionate about music.
Here are several of the Ghetto Classics students. We rehearsed for over 3 hours this afternoon, and they wanted to do more! They truly love playing their instruments. Some of the students in the photo are also tutors and teach the younger students.
The students of Dandora were the most passionate of all! Dandora is one of the most dangerous places to live because of the gang violence. Music has given these kids goals, and something to work towards. Learning each week gives them hope.
The students of the Kongo Primary School walk over 5 kilometers each way to get to school. They don't live in a slum, but in a very rural area. Many of them don't have running water and school is the only place they can get it. They love selfies too!
I had the chance to conduct the Ghetto Classics students during a concert. We played "Flourish" and had almost no rehearsal time on it, but they sounded amazing!

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

Traveling to Kenya has opened my eyes to a world that I've never before seen. I have a greater understanding of the term "third world country" and a much broader perspective of the world as a result of my fellowship. It is possible for students to learn in uncomfortable situations, and that is something that I didn't fully understand before taking this journey. This trip was as much a personal journey as it was a professional one for me.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I plan to have my students take more ownership of their classes and their environment. This means giving them more responsibilities and ownership in everything it is we do. From the music room set up to passing out instruments, it is important for them to take pride in their class and be responsible for their own materials. On a more specific note, I plan to begin using the "Link Up" recorder program books in my classroom so we can be a part of the global movement this program has created!

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

I was incredibly proud of myself for standing up and conducting the wind ensemble in their concert performance. Standing in front of a group I don't know is something about which I often find myself nervous. However, I was confident in my abilities as a musician and as a conductor and we successfully played our piece at a very high level. The audience loved it, the students were happy, and I could stand proud knowing I overcame a fear of my own.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

My experiences have shown me that students can learn despite the worst of circumstances. This will allow me to hold my students to a higher standard because I know that learning can be achieved no matter what. I will be able to treat them in a more mature way and expect that they can deliver whatever it is I am asking for. I have also learned a few tips and tricks in teaching recorder that I can directly apply to my lessons for my fifth-grade recorder classes.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

I plan to keep my connection with Ghetto Classics alive throughout the year. This means sharing recorded performances of my students to them and vice-versa. This also means working with my other music teachers in my district to keep the positivity of my fellowship alive. Because my fellowship was so focused on recorder playing, there will be many opportunities for collaboration with other music teachers in the district such as joint concerts and shared lesson plans.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

Because of my student's new learning, they will be able to handle more mature tasks which will lead to more opportunities for them. This is always a cause for celebration, whether it is individual praise or group celebratory events. This growth will manifest itself in a higher level of learning and understanding. I am constantly celebrating my student's learning, and I think this fellowship will give me even more reason to do that!

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

Throughout the year I hope to stay connected with the Ghetto Classics Orchestra, both individually and with my students. My students can absolutely make a difference in the Kenyan student's lives by having a positive presence for them. At the same time, having friends on a different continent will be an incredible opportunity for my students and for the students in Nairobi. Every little action can make a big difference, and that is something I will not take lightly.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

The Fund for Teacher Fellowship has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity for which I will be forever grateful. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone to places I never thought I would go. It has created lifelong friendships. It has shown me how small my problems are, but at the same time made me feel like I can truly make a difference in the world. I have now seen how people with so little can be so happy and that perspective will forever stay with me.