I do not use chairs or desks in my classrooms (other than for band). Students will have assigned seats on the floor in a grid pattern. If we are singing, students stand around the piano. This seating arrangement (or lack thereof) coincides with my philosophy of education in that it supports the notion that the collaborative creation of music should be collectivistic in nature. Sitting in rows and facing the front of the classroom does indeed have its place in an academic setting when focus and attention should be directed solely at the teacher. However, when it comes to creating music, just as much attention must be paid to immediate surroundings and other classmates as it is devoted to the teacher. Similarly, chairs hinder the creation process as they not only physically restrict the vocalist but also create a closed off and sedentary aura that inhibits the process of connection and collaboration.
In band class chairs and a seating plan are necessary for rehearsal and will be set according to traditional sectional placements. Each chair will have a music stand and seating will begin with random placement within sections, and will eventually include placement according ability (1st chair, 2nd chair and so on). These placements will be based on several in class playing tests, practice log completion, in class participation, and attitude.
Resources for students such as texts and cds will be on display and readily available for students to check out of the classroom if they would like to do so.
Students will very rarely have homework or take home assignments. If paper assessments are used in the class they will usually be used as a means of assessing individual student progress/preference and in most cases will not be graded.
Grades are a reflection of effort as well as learning and achievement. However, each student is different and comes in with a different set of strengths. The goal of grading is to point out students natural strengths while still encouraging growth in all areas (including those which are strong and those that are weaker). A student must show adequate effort and ability in order to receive an outstanding grade.
My classroom guidelines are simple and concrete.
- Only bring yourself (no pens, pencils, chewing gum, etc.)
- Be a good listener (no talking out of turn, eyes on the teacher)
- Always give things a try
These rules will be posted clearly in the classroom and will be outlined the first week of classes.
It is very important to me that I create an environment for my students that is physically, emotionally and intellectually safe. I strongly believe one of the most important tools for managing the classroom is to have a keen eye for the social heirarchy that exists within the classroom and leaving any divides or differences at the door. Research has shown that by mitigating status extremes and supporting isolated individuals, student-teacher responsiveness and community cohesiveness in the classroom is more prevelant. An example of this would be a conversation about not laughing at others when they sing. This not only creates a safe and open environment for the students to create in without the fear of open judgement or shaming, as well as a community where conflicts among students are kept to a minimum. Another example of this is discussing with students the importance in asking questions. I often times tell them how excited I get when they ask questions as it is a challenge for me as a teacher, and it also ensures I am not “leaving anyone in the dust”. Oftentimes I will also tell a personal story of embarrassment or moment of judgement I faced in school to reiterate the empathy and understanding I have towards their social and academic situations. I feel having an “eye for the individual” and engaging in moments of honesty help me to better connect with each of my students, which helps to build a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. This relationship helps to curb moments of conflict in the classroom.
I believe that it is possible to engage and interest almost (if not) all students in a subject as long as you find the right path. Music is such a versatile and wide-range subject that may be approached through many different forms. I believe every student contains a capacity to enjoy music, whether it is through instrumentation, movement/dance, voice, composition, movie or video game score analysis, games, etc. A connection exists somewhere, and if the student is completely unwilling to find or recognize that connection, I will persist and attempt to find the pathway through exploration and creativity. A student may not love the music that is studied in class at a given time, but there is certainly something musical that the student gravitates towards. Perhaps he likes country music or perhaps she plays a video game that has musical accompaniment or they have a movie they like in which the score could be recognized and analyzed. It is important to take a student’s interests into account when shaping a lesson, and although it is very difficult to teach a lesson in which all of the students are motivated to learn, it is possible to teach a particular concept and allow for individual explorationIn addition to individualized exploration it is essential that students are given opportunities to create. Not all students will enjoy this, but it is another way that I may connect the students to the lesson that is being facilitated. If we are learning about drumming, perhaps I allow students to partake in a call and response exercise where they are allowed to create their own rhythms. Oftentimes I see that students enjoy music more when they are given opportunities to express themselves and flex their creative muscles.In addition to content expertise and teaching techniques, I bring with me experience in contemporary and popular music. Having been a part of several student directed contemporary choral ensembles, I am quite affluent in the areas or arrangement and transcription of songs from multiple genres, creative mash-up and medley creation, show production (this includes lighting, staging, choreography, artistic direction, and costuming), and creative development. The duties I took on as director of these groups has allowed me to gain a modern perspective on choral ensembles which will translate into the classroom.I plan to teach to different learning styles by catering to them in the lesson process. As a previous director of ensembles I am quite used to this coming up in rehearsals. Often time’s student’s proficiency in music is wide and varying. Perhaps one student has learned by ear yet is a fantastic violin player, but lacks the ability to read music affluently. On the other hand maybe I have a student who reads well but has trouble translating that to their instrument. It is important I present information in several different ways in order to ensure I am reaching a wider audience.
I plan to build a sense of community between my students through social integration in the form of group activities, partner dancing, group rule setting, discussions, and ensemble work. All of these activities provide the students with opportunities to practice social etiquette and strengthen skills such as eye contact, choosing a partner, respectful behavior and commentary, sharing, and leadership. The most prominent example of community building within our music program is through our Winter and Spring Concerts. These performances are a collectivistic creation, where the students are responsible for almost every component of the production from song selection and choreography, to decorations and marketing.
Once class begins I will send a start of the year letter to parents providing my email and office phone number. In this letter I will also update and refresh this website to include current and upcoming events. I maintain a strong open door policy and would encourage all family members to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding the music program at your student's elementary school. I appreciate "place-based" learning and would like your child's experience in music class to be a reflection of the wants and needs of the community of Ketchikan.
*** The information and opinions provided are subject to change at any time