Kenley Kristofferson


Tag: obstacles

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

Music Ed Mondays – If Only

“If only.”

Do you ever find yourself saying that? I find myself saying that all the time.

“If only there was more time in the day.”

“If only there were more money in the budget.”

“If only I weren’t so tired all the time.”

Those two words carry a lot of power because they really convince us of our own limitations as though the universe were conspiring to hold something back from us.  I mean, the ones above are small obstacles, but it’s often the smallest obstacles that inhibit us the most.  Time, money and fatigue hit us hard both at work and at home, right? They apply to almost everybody, almost all the time.

That’s everybody’s story.

I wrestle with that a lot, but so does everybody – it’s everybody’s story.

So… now what? I’m just like everybody else, but everyone else can do it – what’s blocking me?

Maybe it’s the things that are out of my control (because I can give commitments up to make more time, I can scrimp on luxuries to save more money and I can forego activities to sleep more).

“If only I were better at classroom management.”

“If only there were another teacher around to help me.”


What’s interesting about those two big problems is that they’re actually solvable with a bit of dialogue, relationship-building and research.  Ask other teachers how they deal with classroom management or poke around the internet (in the age of the internet, there is no need for a teacher to feel like there is a lack of resources).  Talk to your administrators or your counselors, or other teachers you really respect.  Also, if you’re not of the younger type, talk to the younger teachers because they may have some new ideas that will blow your mind.  Don’t be the old dog that can’t learn new tricks 🙂

This post isn’t about strategies, it’s about recognizing the barrier: IF ONLY.  The “strategies” listed above aren’t meant as an elixir or cure-all, but just demonstrate that the barrier can be overcome… most barriers can 🙂

This is the first of three blog posts in a little series about approaching the obstacles in our lives and our classrooms.  Your homework has two parts:

1) Find one “If Only” (big or small) and write it down in a place where you won’t lose it by next week.

2) Below it, write “What does the solution look like?”

If you feel bold, write it in the comment section as a public commitment.

Good luck!

PS: Image gotten from Gloomies, isn’t it cute?