Student Teaching Week 1: Music Ed in a Gen Ed World

“Be a dolphin!” “Be an umpire!” “Use proximity to intervene in student behavior.”

Thus begins the long list of useless (or at least not very helpful) advice presented in the last 5 days of student teacher orientation. I’m used to it by now, being tossed to and fro between the education department and the music department for the last 4+ years. Entering a classroom full-time, after 4 years of observations, aiding, and writing lesson plans I’ll never teach, there’s an incredible sense of panic urgency.

Adding to the sense of urgency are my peers, talking about their 3 sections of simple geometry, American English, or the third grade. My assignment? K-12 Music. Not elementary choir. Not middle school band. Not high school Javanese gamalan. 13 grades, ages 5-19, with at least 4 different types of music instruction.

Basically, management techniques and discussions of vocab instruction aren’t super helpful in helping me manage a 60 piece band or a recorder class.

This bothered me for years of gen-education classes! The key, for my understanding of applying general principles of educational psychology and theory, was Music Matters by David Elliott.

Elliott’s book helped me understand how Howard Gardner‘s understanding of multiple intelligence‘s translate to the classroom. Music making is not a non-thinking extension of verbal musical thought, but music making expresses thought through the action of music making. Music making is thinking-in-action.

The pressure was off.

Music education pedagogy is not language arts pedagogy is not mathematics pedagogy is not computer science pedagogy. I gave myself permission to not think everything my education professors (who I respect greatly and have learned a lot from) told me would work in my music classroom. Vocabulary instruction is fine, but it only teaches one aspect of musical intelligence (Elliott calls this musicianship).

My goal is always to provide students with authentic musical experiences with diverse musical cultures in a safe environment where they are safe to learn from their mistakes and explore their musical world. Their ability to articulate their experience must take a backseat to their music making. Divorcing the two results in non-musical performances and non-musical teaching.