Music Ed Mondays – What Does That Look Like?

In our last post, we talked about the things that that get in our way, if only…

Your homework was to find an “if only” in your life and write it down.  Beneath it, you were to write “what does the solution look like?”

So how did that go?

It’s hard to get what you want if you don’t know what it looks like.  We all think this way and kids of this generation especially so.  When we ask them to write a newspaper article or transcribe a solo for jazz band, they really need a template so that they know what’s expected.  You may not always need to explain every little thing, but let them go and guide them to find the patterns between the expectations and the examples themselves.  As a comparison, ask them how many instruction booklets they’ve read – they usually just pick up their new toy and start playing with it, figuring it out as they go.

And we need templates too, don’t we? When I go to festivals and hear a great ensemble, I often think “show me the steps to get there.  What is the sequence? What does that classroom look like?”

Michael Brandon and I talk about that a lot in our quest as teachers and, whatever element of our class culture or pedagogy we’re talking about, the same question always pops up: “What does that look like?”

Lately, we’ve been working on tuning fifths across the ensemble and using it as a method of teaching intonation to get that really transparent sound.  Michael’s been doing a lot of the big research and sharing it with me, my credit in the whole endeavour is much less than his, but we’re both pursuing it together.  He’s been reading like crazy and looking online for rehearsals that have been teaching that concept so that we can visually/aurally perceive what that rehearsal looks like.  I’ll share the results of our find when we get back to school from Winter Break.  But if the kids (and let’s face it, teachers too) don’t have that aural example of listening to great ensembles consistently, then they probably won’t understand what we’re talking about.  We both need the sound in our ear.

Let’s get a bit bigger, though.  Some classroom elements brought up were classroom management and having extra help.  What does that look like?

Just take a second and visualize what good management looks like to you.  Do that now.

Okay, now you see it, what’s next? Try telling the kids what you imagine that class looking like because they need a template, remember? Better yet, ask them what they imagine their class management looking like.

What’s the next step? What’s the sequence? What are some strategies you can use consistently? Keep that visual in your head and ask around.  Share your vision – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Speaking of which, how about that extra help? What does that look like? Remember to be realistic – another teacher isn’t going to teach your Biology class for you, but they may share resources, strategies or materials that are really fun and effective with you.  Tell the kids too, “I got this from Mr. Jones and it looks pretty fun, so let’s give it a try.”

What does that look like? If you don’t know, then visit a teacher who you respect (or even better, that your students really respect) and see how they do it.  Build your template, see what that looks like…

… (here’s the most important one)…

… Now go do it 🙂

That’s the third one.  Your homework for this week is:

– Find one element of your teaching (curriculum, materials, classroom management, etc.) and visualize what that looks like.  Make a list of five (5) attributes that manifest your vision.  If you are unsure, visit another teacher whom you admire.  But remember, this is your classroom.

Happy teaching!

(Cool eye picture from Under 30 CEO

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