Day 3: In which area do you think you can improve the most?
There’s an ease to master teachers when they are in the classroom that I
David Newell’s new book Classroom Management in the Music Room: “Pin-Drop Quiet” Classes and Rehearsals
sincerely admire. When I think of the best elementary music educator that I’ve observed, I think of someone with an intense mastery of the craft, a curriculum design that gets results, and an infectious personality. (I should go visit her at school sometime soon!)
One thing that I recognize in master teachers that I haven’t managed to pin-point and define. I’ve written about David Newell’s seminar on classroom management for the music classroom before here, but until I have my own classroom, I won’t be able to fully implement his strategies in a meaningful way with my own students.
While I was implementing his strategies I wasn’t fully confident with them. They weren’t my own. I was borrowing from an expert. And that’s okay. I often told my choir students at my second placement school that I didn’t much care if they really believed the words they were singing, but they needed to convince me that they did. “Fake it ’till you make it” may sound like a disingenuous practice, but I think it’s a valid way to come into new teaching strategies and find success outside of my comfort zone.
Some things will come with time. I’d love to be the best teacher ever right away,
Photo Manip by karl683 2012
but I realize that so much of what a great teacher great is experience working with students and learning from mistakes.
So here’s to some new mistakes and new lessons!
Day 2: What do you believe is your greatest strength as a teacher?
What’s the saying about “man’s best-laid plans?” One of the best lessons I learned in Student Teaching was that a well-thought out lesson plan will sometimes go south. That half of your students will be on a trip. They aren’t picking up something as quickly as you hoped. You weren’t informed about a fire drill. Someone tries to throw a chair.
I think one of my biggest strengths as a teacher is my ability to adapt to unusual circumstances and be flexible in my teaching and planning. As a student teacher I worked with four very different cooperating teachers, and an ever-changing landscape of student interactions. Many days my plans were fine and I think I taught some great lessons during student teaching. But there were certainly times where things did not go according to plan.
It’s easy to get frustrated. To let the students talk until the bell, to play a simple game. Certainly better planning is needed, but in those moments, when my best-laid plans have been laid waste (even by a Kindergartener!), I find that I figure it out. I don’t know if it’s intuition, training, or sheer luck, but the teacher in me comes out. You find ways to make it work and meet the students where they are.
Is it always perfect? Of course not. During one of my supervisor observations I realized I had not properly pre-assessed the knowledge of a group of late elementary students and had to completely revise my plan, but I saw their frustration and didn’t try to charge forward with my plan. It seems like such a small thing, but I recognize now that it was an important moment in my teaching. I messed up, recognized it in the students, and fixed it on the spot.
So my greatest strength as a teacher right now is flexibility (and content knowledge, and pedagogy, and student relationships, and a bunch of other principle friendly lingo). Maybe one day my planning will catch up to my teaching, but until then, I know I can adapt and adjust to any situation those students can throw at me!