“If they come in and request a song – or if they leave happy and singing a song –
that’s how I know I’ve been successful.”
If you ask Janice DeLozier how she feels about her job, she’ll tell you she’s the luckiest music teacher in the world.
Like so many educators, the last year has changed everything about the way DeLozier engages her students. When the pandemic prompted a shift to remote learning, it removed the hands-on interactivity that is the hallmark of her classes at The Bancroft School — and presented her with the challenge of finding new ways to reach students, especially those who needed additional support to stay focused throughout each lesson.
She hasn’t just risen to the occasion; she used the opportunity to totally transform the way she delivers music lessons to her students each week – through a Youtube-based classroom featuring original songs she writes, performs and films entirely by herself, from home.
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Q. What made you want to become a music teacher?
A. My dad LOVED music. He wasn’t a musician, but he was always singing and listening to music; we grew up around it. I went to college to major in music — but the first time around, I actually decided not to pursue it. It was overwhelming for me and I just wasn’t prepared for the theory classes I needed to take. I thought I was going to be a respiratory therapist.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I revisited music and got my degree, followed by my teaching degree. The rest is history.
My dad passed away before he got to see me become a music teacher, but he’d be so proud. He was so disappointed when I told him I was changing majors. So to see where I am today, on a personal level, that sums it all up: knowing “Dad, I finally did it.”
Q. What brought you to Bancroft?
A. When I started to look for a job, there wasn’t a lot out there in the field. The Bancroft School was hiring a music teacher, so I applied. At the time, I figured I’d be here for a little while — maybe a year or two — and I’d move on. Well – 20 years later, I’m still here, and I love every minute of it.
Q. Do you approach teaching music differently when you’re working with students with autism or another intellectual or developmental disability?
A. I am not a music therapist (although we do have a music therapist at The Bancroft School – but our roles are different), I am a music teacher — so there are curriculum standards I need to meet, and certain competencies I need to teach. The challenge for me, is finding a way to present those curriculum standards to students in whatever way is engaging and understandable for them.
There are so many benefits to learning music but ultimately, I always think of the fun. My classroom is a fun space where students can come and play instruments that might normally only be able to watch other kids play. My goals are always to each music — but there are therapeutic benefits to much of what I do: a student might see some physical therapy benefits from moving their arms as they play the drums, etc.
At Bancroft, we are very collaborative and there’s a lot of communication between me and our teachers and therapists. A colleague might come in and tell me a student is having a particularly good or bad day, or ask me if I have a song that might help teach them a certain concept or word, or help them to learn a new skill. They tell me where they need me to focus, and I’m able to adapt to that. I really love that level of collaboration.
Q. Talk about the creativity the pandemic has inspired in you.
A. When we needed to go remote – I knew I needed to start to teach through videos. I asked myself, how can I get these students to connect through these videos. It was a challenge. But the same concepts are there: I always try to find what’s fun in the music. There’s always something fun in a good song. It might be the hook of the lyric, it might be the rhythm of the song. I’ve just tried to translate that into my videos — and think about how I can make a topic fun and engaging through the computer screen.
Q. How do you come up with the ideas for your videos?
A. Like I said, I knew I needed to be able to keep students engaged remotely – and I still have to follow my curriculum standards. I look at the topic I need to teach, and I try to think about how I can make it fun, above all else. What’s the hook?
I write my own music, my own lyrics, and incorporate skills I want the students to learn. It’s been fun to think about what makes songs fun and engaging.
I might use sign language to correspond with the words I’m saying – or write lyrics that help the students connect the words I’m saying or signing with their own feelings. I use a lot of special effects and green screens to make videos look more fun — and I try to film in different locations around my house as much as possible. It would be so boring just sitting there watching me talk to the camera!
I release a new video every Monday. So, the first half of the week is when I look at my lessons and the concepts that I’ve been teaching. I usually have the song written by Wednesday. Then I shoot the video and have it edited by Sunday to post on Monday. Then I do it all over again!
Q. You mentioned your use of sign language. Why is that so important?
A. It’s so important for me to use each piece to teach as many concepts as possible even beyond the technical “music” lesson. Many of our students are learning to communicate verbally — and incorporating sign language into my songs has been a terrific tool.
Not long ago, a teacher asked me to write a song to help a particular student talk about their feelings. This song was the result. Incorporating sign language helps more students understand the music, feel more social, and become more comfortable with expressing themselves and their needs. The more sign language we all know, the better!
Q. What does your job mean to you?
A. I love what I do. I have instruments surrounding me all day long and when students come in, I get to say “let’s play these instruments!” I have an amazing job… an amazing job. And that’s how I spend my day.
Bancroft has been incredibly supportive – providing all the instruments I could want or need, and having a dedicated music room on the Welsh campus makes all the difference for me. It allows students to have a truly hands-on experience they may not get in another school.
It’s an absolute joy to see students play instruments like an adaptive harp or the drums — and incredible to see them reach their goals. And I can’t say enough about the people I work with.
Q. What is your measure of success?
A. My measure of success is, are the students having fun and are they engaged? If they come in and request a song – or if they leave happy and singing a song – that’s how I know I’ve been successful.