How will I use practices which nurture the whole child/ adolescent within the learning community?
I am committed by my regard for music as a vocation to be dedicated to student success, not just academically, but also personally. Music naturally nurtures the well-being of all people, but it is also an acquired skill which must develop over time and requires that the student be open to learn. To facilitate the development of musical abilities, therefore, I have an increased obligation to the development of the cognitive, emotional and physical capabilities of my students.
To be successful as a music teacher, it is imperative that I form positive, personal relationships with all of my students. Thomas Aquinas spoke of the teacher as moral exemplar, and I agree that the teacher serves their students first and foremost by modeling the behaviors they wish to see in their students. Students will not respect me as a teacher if I am hypocritical, or if I act in a manner not befitting my dignity as a teacher. I must be warm and friendly, but professional. Parents are ineffective in discipline if their children view them as peers, and I believe the same can be said for teachers. As a teacher, if I make clear to my students what I expect of them in the classroom, then I can begin to make good and productive relationships with them within those boundaries. I must also be careful to build positive relationships with the parents of my students if I wish to have any genuine success with the children. What good will my efforts to instill a love of music be if what I do is not reinforced at home? Parents, especially in the younger years, hold the key to their child’s heart and mind, thus to build a good relationship with a student, I must also build a good relationship with their parents. Most importantly, I must care about my students as individuals and let them know that I care about them. The teacher as mentor and guide is most effective when a relationship of mutual affection exists between the student and the teacher.
Consistent with the idea of teacher as the role model, I can encourage my students to do their best by giving my best at the very outset. Giving of my time and talent, laying everything down on the line for them right away will ideally inspire my students to do likewise. Similarly, when mutual affection exists between teacher and student, students wish to do well in order to look good for the teacher. I intend to lavish praise upon my students for their achievements and will do my best to give as little attention as possible to misbehavior. I want my students to learn how to look for attention and recognition in an uplifting manner so that they will be less likely to look for approval from misbehavior or by goofing off.
The atmosphere in my classroom will, of course be determined in part by the personalities of my students, but I as a teacher have immense control over the learning environment. If I exercise that power to affect a positive learning environment I will enable students to succeed more in my subject area and to develop personally. I have found that if I wish to build up those around me, one of the easiest and most successful ways to do so is to have a positive outlook and a cheerful disposition. My personality thrives off of arguments and loves a good battle of wits, but I have learned to relinquish my preferences because most people feel threatened by intense intellectual arguments. My ideal classroom atmosphere is not musical bootcamp. The best kind of teacher is a balance between the disciplinarian and the psychologist; someone who fosters the growth of the whole person of each individual as well as stimulating them to grow beyond their current mindset. The student must come first, not perfection or accuracy, and thus my criticisms must be given in gentleness, my discipline with patience and my reprimands with a healthy dash of humor.
I genuinely believe that if I am doing everything I can, all of my students will be able to learn in my classroom. Students who learn musically and bodily-kinesthetically have an immediate advantage in music, but music can be easily grasped by all intelligences and learning styles. Music theory is a language and is logical-mathematical. Music is both interpersonal and intrapersonal and thinking about music with any depth appeals directly to the existential intelligence. Spatial and naturalistic intelligences will have the most difficulty in relating to music from a superficial encounter, but music is an experience natural to all places and times and involves a great deal of spatial recognition. Personal with spatial recognition will be able to read and understand the spatial dimensions of musical notation easily, and naturalists will have a great deal of fun making music out of the natural environment, such as making a drum out of a bucket or creating a glass harmonica.
Being successful as a teacher also includes adapting my material and my methods to the age of my students. Their developmental level sets the parameters for what and how much I can teach them. For example, if I am trying to teach a song to a group of kindergarteners, I cannot rely on notes or formal notation or even an ability to read. I will have to rely on a kinesthetic approach to teaching music through most of a child’s time in elementary and middle school while laying the foundations for a theoretical and abstract examination of music in high school. Since I will be certified to teach kindergarten through twelfth grade, I must always keep in mind the developmental level of different groups so that I do not lump all my instruction together, boring the elder students and loosing younger groups entirely. This will be a true test of my knowledge of music, being able to demonstrate the subject in a hundred different ways and express it in a thousand different metaphors. It will be challenging, but if I care about my students, no challenge will be too difficult or exhausting. The joy of seeing the lights go on behind my students’ eyes will be all the fuel I need to keep the fire of my passion going.