Haley Smith
Haley Smith
Ecuador, 2018
From July -September 2018, I will be interning with Sinamune, an organization in Quito, Ecuador that provides music education and other services to individuals with special needs. I will be assisting with music classes, performances, and more. I am excited to experience the Ecuadorian culture and learn from these incredible individuals! Read More About Haley →

The Ultimate Differentiation Challenge (Week 5, Part 1)

Monday, August 6th

After today’s 15-hour non-stop day, I almost felt like I was back in music school! I started at Sinamune; Cosette’s and my new schedule had us staying until 10 am, after which we would go to Spanish lessons for 2 hours, and then to La Casa de La Música to start teaching our new classes. However, apparently the director Klever, who Diana had given our new schedule to, had left for a trip to South Korea with one of those students, forgetting to share our new schedule with the staff. Of course, today of all days, the psychology majors had to leave at 10:00 as well for some sort of class. So, the staff had Diana cancel our Spanish lessons so that we could stay until 12:00. We’re getting so used to the schedule changes and lack of communication/organization that we just shrugged and went with it. About 20 minutes after they left, the psychology majors returned. Turns out they didn’t have class after all! By then it was too late to reschedule Spanish again, so we just stayed at Sinamune.

Also, there is a new girl that arrived today named Ashley, who is a junior music education major. She will be at Sinamune for two weeks, and will essentially take Paige’s place. (Paige is teaching classes for Núcleo Pichincha the same time as Sinamune.)

Unfortunately, however, Cosette was sick today and unable to come to Sinamune or the Núcleo. Fortunately, Ashley’s principal instrument is flute, so she was able to fill in at the Núcleo. This was going to complicate the day though, because as Cosette’s birthday is tomorrow Paige and I had planned a surprise party for this evening! (Her parents were coming to visit Ecuador and she would be with them tomorrow, so we needed to do it today! We were just going to have to wait and see, though.

After Sinamune, Ashley and I took the bus to a stop near our Spanish school and grabbed a quick lunch at one of my favorite empanada places. Then we met Diana at her office near there, because she was going to go with us to the new job for the first day.

We took a taxi and arrived at La Casa de La Música. They showed us to the rooms where we would teach. My room was magnificent, with two door-size windows that opened to a magnificent view of La Virgen del Panecillo and the south of Quito. They had also already placed chairs in the room. They had told me that I could use an electronic keyboard that they had, but someone had to go get it. Fortunately, we got it set up in plenty of time. The students were about to arrive!

And now I would like to talk about the danger of expectations. Try as we might not to have expectations, I think it’s part of the human condition that we are going to expect things to go or be a certain way. I don’t know if this is a side effect of imagination, or wishful thinking, or maybe a survival method to prepare ourselves for what is to come. Anyway, I had expectations. You’d think after the past month in Ecuador I would have learned and have known better than to expect things to go the way I expected…

Here’s what I expected. And this wasn’t wishful thinking, because this is exactly how the directors at Núcleo Pichincha told us things would go.

2:00-4:00: Choir with children from 8-12 years old, beginning singers with little/no experience

4:00-6:00: Choir with children 13+, beginning/intermediate singers with some experience

Here’s what I got:


  • 10 students of various ages and abilities (and when I say various I mean VARIOUS)
  • One 6-year-old accompanied by her parents, 3 teenagers, and 6 adults over the age of 30
  • 6 people who had never sung in their life, 2 people who had sung in school choir, 1 director of a music school, and 1 semi-professional opera singer who had studied in Quito’s conservatory but stopped after he kept getting sick and having vocal problems


  • 6 students of various ages and abilities
  • One 8-year-old, 2 teenagers, and 3 adults
  • 1 adult who had studied music in college, 1 teenager who had never sung in her life, 1 professional singer/guitar player, 1 lady who sings in a chorus in Quito, 1 lady who has never sung in her life, and the 8-year-old who said her favorite song was Despacito

I had planned songs and activities for children! Also, in no universe should a 6-year-old and a 44-year-old sing in a choir together! I was too overwhelmed to really analyze the situations, so I started warm-ups and just went with it. I allowed some time for people to introduce themselves and for a 10-minute break, but let me just say 2 hours is a long time to improvise teaching after having to throw away your whole lesson plan.

Somehow, though, I did it, and all of the students were so gracious and patient with my Spanish and truly grateful to come to the class. They all told me as well that they were under the impression that it would be divided by age/ability, but they went with the flow when it wasn’t.

I’m trying to refrain from being disappointed that things didn’t turn out as I expected, but I am a little frustrated again. Also, I have never taught ADULTS, and I feel like I’m not equipped to do that. Add to all of that the language barrier; I didn’t realize how much technical terminology is involved with singing until I tried to explain things in Spanish!

However, I know I’m going to figure something out, and I know I’m going to learn a lot, and I’m trying to view the whole situations as “THE ULTIMATE DIFFERENTIATION CHALLENGE.” Stay posted, wish me luck, and please send me any advice/tips you have about differentiating with such groups. Gracias!



At least the view is fabulous!



One thought on “The Ultimate Differentiation Challenge (Week 5, Part 1)”

  1. Wow! Things are going to seem so easy for you when you get home! Good thing your spirit is unconquerable!

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