The other day I received a sweet gift from a piano student of mine. I thanked her for the gift and asked her to explain her choice in the artistry of the piece. She explained, “those are quarter notes, half notes, shushes, and …. four beat notes”. I was grinning ear to ear, thankful for this sweet gift. Some might wonder, “why didn’t you correct her?”. Turns out I did, but I did it differently than saying, “not shushes, those are quarter rests”. Instead, I told her that I was very impressed with her quarter rests and the fact that she could explain her pottery piece and use great music vocab. Although we’ll work on this more, and bring back that theory, the fact that she said shushes versus quarter rests is not too essential. The fact is, she knew what the MEANING of the symbol was. Often as teachers, we get bogged down with reinforcing the NAME of the strategy or concept we are teaching. However, what if we focused instead on the IMPORTANCE or MEANING of the skill we are teaching with students? Students aren’t blind – they know when teachers are giving them busy work or if a term isn’t really that important to know how to spell (like apocryphal). In addition, they often don’t see the purpose of tasks and then don’t desire to do them because we fill up the time before and after that task with activities that are pointless. Therefore, it is essential that teachers put the stress and emphasis back on the significance of the task to the student’s future success rather than the name you’d find in a dictionary.
As a teacher, I am always inspired by others to do better and be a better teacher to my students. One teacher that inspires me is Gordon Snider. You can read about his life and an interview that Music & Arts did with him after he was nominated and won Educator of the Year 2016 Award.
There are many aspects of his teaching that I want to copy myself, but one of them is his passion for inspiring students & to impact the community through them.
“The basis of the advice I can give would be to live by the concept of the Golden Rule which tells us to, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” With this as the foundation, we will enter each day with a positive attitude. We will take time for people and truly listen to them. We won’t be afraid to ask for help or worried to fail. We can enter our schools with a passion that can’t help but be caught by those who come in contact with us. As a result, we can be creative and innovative because teaching music is an extension of who we are and something we get to do not something we have to do. At the end of each day, we will have made a choice to either do nothing or to have made a difference. Our students need what music can provide but we have to be willing to do what it takes to deliver the tools needed for them to succeed because what we do is greater than the subject we teach.”
I hope that as myself and the future Teaching Fellows embark on our future paths and careers as teachers that we can be like him, helping students and others around us see the passion that can’t help but be caught by those who come in contact with us.
I wish the best to my senior amigas! We’ve almost made it – by December we’ll be officially ready for student teaching (or as ready as we’ll ever be). Receiving our first teacher lesson planners was thrilling but also sombering. Although we may think that we can plan and strategize and predict what we will be doing in the lives of our students, we will never know. Those lesson planners need to be written in pencil because otherwise if written in pen, will be marked out by an invsibile hand when we teach from the heart based on our student’s needs. Rewarding a student for understanding the MEANING of a concept and how it relates to the bigger context is so much more important than staying in the lines with the exact vocabulary and standards that we are told to teach every day. Instead, inspire and foster curiousity, love of learning, and the quest to understand the meaning of life, not the definition of life.