Monday, March 12, 2018
IN THIS ISSUE:
If The Shoe Fits...
If you are going to improve as a teacher, you must acknowledge your own shortcomings and develop a plan to improve.
Advice. We can all benefit from some words of wisdom from time to time. Most of these topics below have come from advice I have received from others during my career. I'm stubborn, and as a young teacher I didn't immediately appreciate some of the advice I am passing on in this article. But as time passed and shortcomings repeated themselves, I learned that the best plan was to listen with an open mind to those who had good advice to give.
Procedures, Procedures, Procedures!
Most student discipline problems occur when procedures for student conduct have not been clearly defined. It is crucial that you have well-established procedures for your students from the time they walk into the room until the time they leave. Here are a few topics to consider:
Two Plus Two Equals Five?
What if you were taught over and over that 2+2=5? Every teacher taught you that from day one and no one told you differently. Not knowing any better, you would soon believe it to be true until the day someone taught you that 2+2=4. By that point you would likely be skeptical and it would take you a period of time to adjust to the concept even after you accepted it as fact.
When you fail to correct mistakes in rehearsal or choose to ignore them until later you are essentially doing the same thing. You are allowing students to reinforce errors. At some point, those mistakes will have to be corrected it will become increasingly difficult to establish correct practice habits. Nip the problems in the bud!
Don't Criticize Without a Solution
Have you ever been in a situation in which the conductor was somewhat critical of your performance but offered no real means for improvement? As an adult, perhaps you can formulate a solution on your own but most school aged students can't or don't. Therefore, any criticism you offer without a positive solution serves no purpose other than to turn you into a negative teacher that the student will tune out at some point.
Recordings Don't Lie
All teachers, even experienced ones, should record their band on a regular basis, especially if they are preparing for a competition or festival. Recordings offer the conductor the chance to examine a section of music repeatedly for multiple errors in multiple parts and notice minor errors that are often not heard by the human ear in rehearsal. By recording you are also training your ear to hear errors in your rehearsal. Through repeated listening you will start to learn what your band's tendencies are. This allows you to anticipate problems before they occur and be a more efficient, effective teacher.
Get a Second (of Third) Opinion
After listening to your band daily for months at a time, you are far from objective. You know how far they have come and sometimes that is a long way, but that doesn't mean they have arrived at their destination even if you think they have. Getting an extra set of ears from a more experienced director with a proven track record is a must. You can ask them to simply come in and listen and offer criticism or you can turn over the rehearsal to them as a guest conductor. Either way, they will either find issues that you are overlooking or will simply reinforce what you have been saying. Regardless of the format you choose you will get fresh insight into the performance of your ensemble by stepping off the podium and listening from a distance.
For the Love of God, Learn to Play in Tune!
Students must learn how to match pitch as a beginner. Delaying the process just sends a message to your kids that it isn't important to listen around them. At some point your kids will learn that playing out of tune is fine; they will fail to see the need to develop critical listening skills, or lack the interest to do so. Use of a variety of long tone exercises, chord tuning exercises, etc. are great but you must also educate your students on pitch tendencies and how to listen across the band. Most importantly, you must not allow your band to continue playing when you hear pitch imperfections. It must be clear to the students that poor intonation is simply not acceptable and must be corrected or at least improved when the problem surfaces.
Take Full Responsibility for the Outcome
Everything that happens in your rehearsals leading up to a concert or competition is on you. While judges sometimes miss a rating, most of the time they get it right or err on the positive side. Chances are, if you listen to a recording of your band a few months after the past performance you will likely hear it in a much more critical way than you did when you were immersed into the daily preparation. If you are going to improve as a teacher, you must acknowledge your own shortcomings and develop a plan to improve. Be your own worst critic instead of making excuses and looking to place blame elsewhere.
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't."--Erica Jong,
"The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself."--Oscar Wilde
And with that, I would encourage you to be willing to listen to the ideas of others and share your best advice as well. Together, we can do much more for our students and the world.
Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative
Can we assist you with anything? Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.
If you would like to submit material, make corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact David Gorham.