From the Stage to the Classroom: Reflection on Patty Oeste’s MEJ Article

I’m not even sure we have one of these in this little college town!

I love getting mail! Unfortunately, 4 times out of 5 my mailbox is filled with credit card offers and flyers from the SuperSaver that got my address when I tried to win a big flat screen TV at their grand opening. Yesterday, though, I was happy to find this quarter’s edition of the Music Educator’s Journal published by NAfME. Usually, I scan through these and read one or two articles and let the rest sit, but this issue is packed full of great material and I’ve been totally absorbed in it for the last two days.

I loved Patty Oeste’s discussion of why she left the stage as a performer and became a music educator.

“Every student who enters my classroom is a story being written, and I am allowed to contribute a page or two. My pages are important, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. … I see the power of music in action every day. My students thrive. They learn to listen, and they learn to be flexible in their thinking. They take risks, and gladly. And what is truly amazing is that many students who enter my classroom don’t always shine in other classrooms. But, we can revel in their many successes in music. We laugh. We talk. We sing. We create.

I would have to say that I am not hear to teach music, but to surround my students with the beauty they may not find elsewhere.”

This description is exactly why I love teaching music! Teaching music is about giving students the chance to experience beauty that is not found elsewhere. We prepare them to encounter the world’s beauty wherever they might find it.

I also loved Ms. Oeste’s description of what leaving the performing stage was like:

“I found that the perfection and discipline demanded on stage is even more important in the classroom setting.”

Riga, Latvia after one of our last collegiate performances ever!

Riga, Latvia after one of our last collegiate performances ever!

The last five years I spent working toward my performance degree was not wasted. It trained me to be disciplined, to seek perfection, and to build an attitude of excellence that I will bring to my future classroom every day.

 

Live and In Person! The Transcendence of Experiencing Live Art

Live and In Person! The Transcendence of Experiencing Live Art

Think of those experiences that have inspired you to want to be better, to be a part of something bigger and greater, to transcend limits and to touch, if only for a moment, something divine. Then start searching for ways to create those experiences for your students and inspire yourself in the process!

Live-and-In-Person

When I was touring with my college’s choir through Europe, I noticed that there was something different in the crowds (even if they were small) that gathered to hear us sing. There was a sense of reverence or attention that I didn’t really notice when traveling in the United States. I noticed it in Spain four years ago on the previous choir tour.

I believe that as a culture we have lost something. Now I know this sounds like a nostalgic plea for the good old days that I was never even alive to witness, but I really think we’ve lost our sense of awe and wonder in the face of great art. Not everyone, mind you, but a lot of us. I know that my experience of the transcendent nature of art is often stymied by my cynicism and envy of a performer’s virtuosity.

But every once in a while, we encounter that feeling again. For me, those moments have come when listening to a children’s choir in Naperville, Indiana, a symphonic band from the University of Nebraska – Omaha, or even while performing at a beautiful round wooden church in Riga, Latvia. The arts have the potential to give students experiences that they will not find if we do not offer them.

20130612-113557.jpg

Inside of the Jesus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Riga, Latvia. Taken by Holly Saalfield

It is my goal as an educator to first provide them with the learning environment for them to grow and build their skills as musicians and as human beings. Second, provide them with performance experiences as both performers and listeners so that they might share in the human experience of transcendent artistry. These two goals, artistic skill/perspective and artistic transcendence, are the ways in which the arts build self-knowledge, community, and growth that we want each student to find as they embark on their life as learners.

 

We teach to cre…

We teach to create a musical environment we lacked while growing up. We are here to give students the best foundations possible.

A “Ms. Alexander,” as quoted by this tumblr page!

I thought this would be a wonderful quote to return to my blog with! I have spent the last few months hectic with papers and assignments and tours and job applications. I’m looking forward to the end of the semester when I can sit back and reflect on the last five years of my college career and really begin to appreciate all that I have learned and the new person I have become.

I will attempt to update this blog more often (once a week, I hope) over the next month, but I leave for my penultimate choir tour on Wednesday so that may not happen!

I do have a job interview next week, so maybe I’ll post some of what I’ve been researching in preparation for that with my connections to music education.

Good luck as we all (teachers and pre-service teachers alike) finish out the school year!

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 3

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!

30 Day Blog Challenge Day 2

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!

30 Day Blog Challenge Day 1

Day 1: How did you decide to become a teacher?

When I started college I was a pre-seminary student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance. During my sophomore year, I decided to drop the seminary certificate and pursue education as a career.

Photograph of The Boxcar Children books on a shelf.

I loved The Boxcar Children books as a kid! Will need to find a set before I have children of my own! Creative Commons License 2011, janielle23, http://www.flickr.com/photos/janellie23/5557021621/

I’ve always loved school. In elementary school I would have my father drive me to school early to get everything ready and make sure I was prepared for the day’s learning. I’ve always loved to read. We joke in my family that my mother once collapsed in the library while pregnant with me, and that I’ve loved to read ever since. I’ve always loved music. I remember standing and singing in my classes at my first elementary school and being told I had one of the best voices in the class.

But I’m not a teacher because I love school, because I love to read, or because I love music. I’m a teacher because I believe education is the place that I can best make a change in this world. Teaching is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done, and I’ve only been a student teacher! There’s something incredible about making music with students and helping them find their voice and their song.

As a student teacher I worked at two different schools, with four different cooperating teachers, and with close to 700 students from grades K-12. I will never remember all of them. But I will remember that it was there that I discovered my love for teaching. It was not a chore to get up in the morning and drive 30 minutes to school with coffee in hand.

Instead, I greeted my students cheerfully (even at 7am!) and asked how their weekend was, or how the One-Act was coming along. I decided to become a teacher because I think I already was a teacher. When I wanted to be a pastor, I was drawn to the teaching aspects of the office.

Keep Calm and Teach On

Copyright 2012 Ashley Kipp at Simply Designing http://simplydesigning.blogspot.com/

As I wrote in my post, Teacher to Student, I have felt a great loss in my transition back to being a college student. I don’t receive the same fulfillment as I did during student teaching. But a bit of that spark comes back each time I browse the classifieds of districts I’m hoping to apply for, and I look forward to the day when I have students of my own again.

I guess I never did really decide to become a teacher. Instead, I chose a major and teaching found me along the way. I’ll never look back.

 

30 Day Teaching Challenge

30 Day Teaching Challenge

In an effort to keep myself thinking about teaching and in the teaching mindset, I’ve decided to start a 30-day teaching challenge starting tomorrow! Thanks to Julie at learningtoteach-julie.blogpsot.com I finally found a list that will work for my purposes here!

I might alter a few of the questions to be more applicable to my experience as a pre-service teacher, but I’m excited to explore some of my teaching experiences in depth!

Here are the prompts! I’ll see you tomorrow!

30-Day Reflection Challenge

Day 1: How did you decide to become a teacher?
Day 2: What do you believe is your greatest strength as a teacher?
Day 3: In which area do you think you can improve the most?
Day 4: What were you most worried about as you approached your first day as a teacher?
Day 5: How do you keep your classroom organized?
Day 6: What have you observed of other teachers that might work in your own classroom?
Day 7: How can you best promote responsibility in your students?
Day 8: How do you connect with your students?
Day 9: What do you want out of the “Staff Room”?
Day 10: Describe your ideal administrator.
Day 11: What do you think about the phrase: “Always teach like you are going to be observed?”
Day 12: What strategies do you use to keep up with grading?
Day 13: What helpful advice have you heard about dealing with parents?
Day 14: Who do you turn to for teaching advice and why?
Day 15: How would you describe yourself as a person and as a teacher?
Day 16: What is your biggest regret as an educator?
Day 17: What is the most important thing you have learned in school?
Day 18: What about education frustrates you the most?
Day 19: How would your coworkers describe you?
Day 20: Describe yourself during your first year of teaching and discuss how you have grown.
Day 21: What was your most enjoyable moment as a teacher?
Day 22: What did you encounter in your career which you did not expect?
Day 23: What aspects about education are you currently excited for?
Day 24: What part of teaching has been the easiest?
Day 25: How were you taught in school?
Day 26: What tools do you think are most important for professional development today?
Day 27: What is one thing you want to accomplish before you are done teaching?
Day 28: How do you create a classroom where every student feels included and valuable?
Day 29: What is your preferred learning style and how does it affect how you teach?
Day 30: What kind of teacher do you want to be in 10 years?