Growth Throughout the Semester
There are many ways in which I have grown as a teacher this semester. In general I knew very little about teaching practices specific to general music. I knew a lot of ideas and elements of teaching in general and for teaching music, but not really general music. I remember for the first teaching of the semester that when Dr. Stauffer explained it and how short, simple, and easy it would I be that I thought, “Oh thank goodness, because I have no idea how to do anything else more complicated than that right now.” It is so nice to see now that I feel comfortable and confident teaching many different lessons much more complicated than that one. It is always really amazing to look back at my growth throughout the semester.
There are several general things I learned about what to do and what not to do, how and how not to do things just from having these experiences to teach in this class. For example, I learned that teaching something in another language is hard. In my song teaching video in class I used the song “De Colores”. I did not feel terribly good about that lesson at the time, and looking back on it now I still don’t feel so good about it. I did a lot of talking, there was not much student leadership in it, and I think that I actually did accomplish some good things with movement in that lesson, but the focus of that lesson was supposed to be on learning how to sing the song, and I feel that I did not really adequately achieve that. I think that this was a poor choice of song for that focus, especially for not having had experience teaching a song in that way. I think that teaching songs in other languages is good, and I would very much like to develop that skill, but I just think that that may not have been the right time for that.
This said, there are things that I was happy to see in watching that particular video. I was really focusing on assessing the class throughout by asking many questions, and I am really happy to have seen that I was doing that. I think that his class really helped me develop my question asking skills in general. I think that I really refined my question asking by the time I taught the New Melodic Element lesson. I had been getting good at it in the song teaching one and in the New Rhythmic Element one, but I think that one is when I really started asking them in an organic way. Something else that I was happy to see in my song teaching video was that at that point I started getting better at giving specific feedback, even in quick little transitional comments. I noticed this when I heard my comment after the class sang with me and I said “Very nice entrance there,” because that entrance is syncopated and somewhat tricky. This was great because it was a quick little comment before moving on to the next step, but it was something specific that pertained to the activity they were doing. I also noticed that in later lessons, like in the New Rhythmic Element one when I said “Nice job keeping a good beat.” Refining that clear and specific feedback was something very important to me going into this semester, because that was something I did not feel particularly strong in. I definitely came a long way in developing that skill throughout last year, but I really think I have taken that to another level this year. I have also noticed it improve in my private lesson teaching. I don’t use “good” as a transition word so much anymore, which I definitely used to be very much guilty of, and at times still am. It’s a work in progress, but that progress is coming along!
Something else that I did not feel incredibly strong in coming out of last semester was my volume of speech while teaching. It was rather bizarre because I tend to speak pretty loudly, and I had never had a problem with not speaking loud enough while teaching before, but for some reason last semester I started developing this bad habit of not speaking loud enough. I was glad to see as I watched these videos that this did not seem to be an issue this semester. I think that part of this had to do with where I was placing my voice. Last semester in Art of Teaching Advanced Instrumentalists we spoke about where to place out voices when teaching. We learned that it is healthier to place our voices higher and that placing our voices higher helps the students to hear us better. I did notice that in some of my earlier videos this semester that I was unintentionally placing my voice rather low. I particularly noticed this in my teaching a song over video lesson. In this one there were several times that I accidentally placed my voice very low, and I also noticed this happening in my song teaching lesson in class. I actually remember noticing that as I was recording that my online song teaching video, so I do remember taking note of that to be aware of that, and I think I was. In the next teaching video, the New Rhythmic Element lesson, I noticed that I did a much better job of placing my voice higher. I think I maintained this in the subsequent lessons as well.
There were other details in the New Rhythmic Element lesson that I felt putlined my improvements throughout the semester. In this lesson I think I started getting really god at teaching songs. I think that the way I felt about my song teaching lesson actually was really good, because it helped me really think about what was a good way to teach a song, and after that I got much better at it. I was very happy with my creativity in teaching it, and I noticed in the lessons that followed I kept this up. In the New Rhythmic Element lesson I also got better at singing my entrances. I noticed in my song teaching lesson that I was not as consistent or strong with that, but by this lesson I had gotten much better at it. In fact, I think that working on that in this class helped me become more aware of my counting off in general. This was actually something I was specifically working on for my teaching in the String Project classes as well. I have worked a lot on that in the classes and in my private lesson teaching as well, and I think I have improved at this a great deal. I now also usually sing entrances with my strings private lessons because it encourages audiation and helps them hear if they are on the right note and if they are in tune when they start.
There are a few more things that I feel I improved on throughout this class. First, I have become much more clear and concise in my teaching. This seems evident to me when I compare my final teaching to my earlier teachings. I was very happy to see how much more concise and clear I had gotten in that last teaching. I have noticed this in other teaching settings as well. In my private teaching I also feel like I have gotten much better with my use of speech and much more clear and to the point with what I want to say. Second, I feel that as a young teacher starting off there is so much to take in and focus on that it is easy to be blind to some things. When teaching we have to look for what the students are doing well and what they need to improve on, and it can be easy to miss things. I now feel like I am getting more comfortable with my teaching and that is allowing me to focus more on seeing these things. I am getting better at not being blind to these details. Finally, in this class I think I did a good job of developing the use of my physical cues for the students. I personally feel that I used strong and clear visual cues in all of my lessons throughout this semester, even the first one. My facial cues in that one were clear, and in the Folk Dance lesson I used clear visual cues for when to echo me. This is exciting for me because before this semester I don’t think this was something that I was as strong at.