Student Teaching Weeks 7 & 8: Da Capo al Fine

Yesterday, I said goodbye to two cooperating teachers, two other music teachers, a faculty and staff I really liked, and the last of over 400 students I have gotten to know over the last 8 weeks.

There were three individuals or groups of students that made it very hard to leave the school. First, my second grade friend was disappointed I was not able to have one more music recess with him. Today, he gave me a big hug and said goodbye before running back to his classroom.

Second, the first grade class that made a book of drawings and notes of them in music class! Later today, I’ll put up pictures of the book later today (sans names of course).

But saying goodbye to the dedicated high school musicians in the band was very difficult. I know some of them may find their way to this blog, but they already know how thankful I am for my time with that ensemble. A few gave me cards or notes, a few wanted pictures with me. I felt very connected to that group of students.

So, I made it to halfway mark, and on Monday I start the entire process over again! A new staff, two new cooperating teachers, and many new students! Da capo al fine!

P.S. – Our marching band got a Superior rating at their first ever marching contest! It was so awesome to see students who had never marched in a competitive show wow the audience and judges with a very fine musical product! Very cool!

TSWBAT: What do I want my students to do?

Last week, I read Thomas J. West’s excellent post at Alfred Leger Lines blog, “What Should Every Graduating Senior in a Performing Arts Program Should Be Able To Do?”

Mr. West outlines four primary goals for all of his ensemble students by the time they graduate. These include high proficiency on their primary instrument, improvisation over basic chord changes (not only in jazz), composition of a four-part quartet for their primary instrument, and the ability to record, mix, edit, and master audio.

As a pre-service teacher in my professional semester, the thought of teaching students to do one of those things in 4 years is daunting enough. I’d love to see more of Mr. West’s curriculum and how he puts this into action!

What I’ve realized, though, is how important skills like these are for a life of rich music experiences. This last week, I introduced a fifth grade band to solfege and we began to use it to read and listen to music. It was more than playing exercises in their method books. These students were beginning to make music! Sure, there’s not a lot of lasting quality in having students play the chorus to “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, but they were making music and loving it!

At the end of the day, I want to know that my students can do more than join a community choir or municipal band, but be active music-makers and partake in a musically productive life!

My work as a music educator is more than putting on programs for parents, and more than making great music with students. My work as a music educator is to make musicians! The goals Mr. West lays out do just that!

I don’t know how I will survive my student teaching or first year of teaching, but eventually, these will be my goals. To build in students the desire and ability to create music of their own.

Student Teaching Weeks 4, 5, and 6: Improvising, Dynamics, and the Joy of Teaching

I’ve tried to write this blog post for the last three weekends, but have failed to complete it each time. With a week and half left in my first student teaching placement, my time at this school is close to expiring. And with that prospect is the anticipation of saying goodbye to my 400+ students, some of whom I’ve built a relationship.

One of my new students friends, is a second grader, J. J is anything but a teacher’s ideal student. Not once, in the 6 weeks I have been there has J participated in music class. Every day he would ask to do something else: play the piano, play the drums, sing a different song, use a microphone. Not a single note sung, not single action, not one note.

Not until Friday.

Whenever J was not participating in music class, it was never because he did not want to make music. He was constantly asking to sing me a song, or play the drums, but we needed him to participate in music class! So, on Tuesday, I asked him to meet with me after class and sat down and made a deal. If he participated in music, he’d get to come in during recess and we’d do whatever music activity he wanted.

Later that day, at recess, he pulled me aside and told me something that I’ll never forget: “Mr. Jensen, I don’t have any friends. No one will play with me.”

I was heartbroken. I said, “I’m your friend, J.” And the smile that filled his face will forever define my best moment in Student Teaching 1.

Friday morning, I reminded him of our agreement, and he smiled and gave me thumbs up. I was prepared to give him the recess if he participated at least a little bit! But he stood in his place, sang every song, and performed every action. After each song he’d turn around to me and say, “How’d I do, Mr. Jensen?” I smiled and said, “You did great, J.”

And at lunch, we played instruments and sang a few songs. (Turns out, he knows quite a bit about music and matches pitch very well!)

In a week and a half, I move on to my next placement, and J will be back in the same music class with the same teacher. I don’t know if he’ll continue to participate in music class or not, but I know that for that half an hour, the music teacher was his friend. And that’s a teaching moment.