Vote for Teacher Awards Semi-Finalist Andrea Blair #CFTeacherAwards



My son has learning disabilities—he is dyslexic and dysgraphic. When he started middle school he told us he wanted to join the band. The problem was that he was incapable of reading music. I approached the music teacher, Mrs. Blair, and asked if he might be able to join in some way. I was thinking of him banging a tambourine or something. Mrs. Blair said she would find a way. This started a three-year project of my son’s journey into music. For Mrs. Blair, it was not enough for him to just do some simple percussion; instead, she designed a whole new sheet music system for dyslexics. It is based on colour and size, not a staff and bars of notes. Her new system has allowed my son to play the clarinet in the band for three years. In her evenings, Mrs. Blair translates all the music the band plays to my son’s system. Creating this music system has been a mammoth undertaking. Mrs. Blair tried many different ways of trying to communicate the notes to my child. Just colouring the notes would not work as the lines and dots were just confusing to my dyslexic son. Mrs. Blair sat at home with piles of felt pens trying different colour combinations and ways of simplifying the system. This music has to be seen to be understood. I showed it to a dyslexic friend and she got so excited, saying, “I could learn music with this, it totally makes sense!” It is all created on graph paper with colours representing which notes, and position of boxes of colour representing pitch etc. There is not a traditional note in sight. Mrs. Blair’s compassion and dedication is beyond measure. She did not have to make this huge effort. She could just have handed my son a shaker and said he was included. Instead, she spent countless hours of her own time developing the system. She met with my son before school one day a week to work one-on-one with him. She even came to our house to work with him to help him get ready for a big concert. She is so committed and compassionate. She runs six different musical ensembles at the school. She helps hundreds of children, but she cared enough about one young boy to make this amount of time for him. I am trying to encourage Mrs. Blair to share the wonders of the system she invented. What she has done is simply amazing and in time I think will be used by many dyslexic children, allowing them to discover music in a very hands on way that was previously unreachable. — Parent of student