Throughout fall semester I had a variety of experiences which not only expanded my view of music education as a whole, but also increased my comfort level and confidence in instructing large groups.
Most of my previous music teaching experiences have been in private lesson settings. I learned last semester that I suffered (or should I say, my “students” suffered) from too much “teacher talk”. Receiving feedback and watching videos of myself teaching allowed me to pinpoint when I was most prone to this unproductive habit. This semester I had the opportunity to practice teaching with this in mind in both a choral setting and an orchestra setting. Becoming more aware of my teacher talk has helped me become more precise in my instructions to students. This flip side of this was that it became all the clearer when I came to a portion of the lesson I had not prepared for enough. While the well-prepared portions of my lessons went smoothly, when I came to these less prepared-for spots, I noticed I spoke without thinking, backtracked, and became flustered more often. Having this happen was a strong motivator to review each step of my lesson plan immediately before giving the lesson.
I had the opportunity to view several types of middle school and high school music classes. The first was a high school chorus rehearsal. This had a strong reminiscent effect on me, as my emphasis has been leaning toward choral education, and it was powerful enough to have me reconsider my original inclination toward middle school. Observing Mr. Brizner had me revisit my preconceptions about “teacher personality” and what types of approaches can be effective in teaching. I came to the conclusion that bringing out more of my natural personality would be an asset in a high school setting.
As at home as I felt in the high school chorus setting, observing Mr. Robinson’s high school rock ensemble felt powerfully similar to my experience at Berklee College of Music. What was profound about this for me was the realization that learners did not have to wait until college before learning to play their preferred style and exercising autonomy and individual expression. So while the choral experience was a powerful one, and helped set me on the path of teaching high schoolers, the rock ensemble experience felt liberating. The environment itself had a family vibe which I found extremely appealing. Students were obviously flourishing and being creative while still being in a structured environment. Reflecting on these two experiences help me synthesize an idea of what kind of teacher I want to be and the kind of culture I want to build within my classroom.
I was able to view two different general music classes at the middle school. Before this semester I had no idea what types of specialty courses were actually considered general music. One was a guitar class and the other was much like a music appreciation course but more interactive. The level of creativity I saw in this second class was exciting and inspiring as a teacher. Like the rock ensemble, I was able to see the structure but the students had free reign within that structure for much of the lesson.
All of these observation experiences influenced my concept of school music, thus allowing me to imagine the potential I would have as a school teacher. In practicing teaching in these various settings (though somewhat contrived due to solely teaching my own peers), I have been able to better imagine myself teaching in an actual public school setting. Being introduced to the multitude of resources available also helped in lessening the overwhelm of where to start.
Throughout the semester I have also gained a greater appreciation of scaffolding, even for older age groups. Organization plays a crucial role in this. Even if I don’t expect to go over every minute step in a lesson, I know that I should plan to break things down if I need to, and knowing how I would do that ahead of time is essential. I have come to appreciate that this is also crucial in reaching all types of learners. Above all else, I want my lessons to be accessible to everyone. My experiences this semester have shown me how I want to do that.