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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 4, 2013


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


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Why I Choose To Teach In a Small School by Chris Sprague

After twenty-one years in education I have finally pinpointed why I have chosen to stay at the same small school for eighteen of those years. My school serves approximately 230 students in the same K-12 building. While this has its disadvantages the positive aspects far outweigh the negatives.

Since I am the only music teacher in the district I have the same students in my classroom from the time they are in Kindergarten through graduation. That means I have thirteen years to be a positive influence in the development of a young personís life. For some of my students I may be the only stable adult in their lives. They know that no matter what else is going on in their lives they will be able to walk in my room and know that there is routine, respect, and reasonable expectations.

Being the only music teacher has the advantage of being able to be in complete control of my curriculum. I still teach with national and state frameworks in mind, but I get to decide how and when to introduce the concepts I want my students to learn. If there are gaps in their knowledge I donít have to rely on anyone else to change a teaching method, and I can address those gaps in any way I choose. It is easy to customize instruction to each individual rather than teaching to the median and hoping that every student ďgetsĒ it.

Small schools tend to be the center of their community. There exists a strong sense of pride and sense of personal ownership and involvement from students, teachers, administration and community members. This encourages strong personal interaction as well as closer working relationships among school staff. We all must work together to succeed, and everyone pitches in to make things work. One evening the superintendent, elementary principal, two janitors and I worked to clean up the art room when it flooded during a rain storm. No one is above doing any job regardless of what their job description says.

One of my favorite things about my teaching situation is the cross-age mixing of my performing groups. It is so rewarding to watch the older students teach the younger students. In our grade 7-12 band my older students constantly mentor the younger students and reinforce what Iím teaching from the podium. Not only are the younger students gaining knowledge, but the older students gain leadership skills they may not get in a classroom with similar-aged students. Recruitment is not a problem as the younger students see those role models day after day and aspire to be ďas good as JohnnyĒ when they get older. Discipline is also not much of an issue as students are taught how to behave in my classroom from the time they walk in my door at age five.

You CAN have successful music programs in small schools. The students in our small districts deserve excellence in their music education just as their peers in larger districts. It is a different mindset in some ways than being in a larger district, but the rewards can be just as fulfilling.

Palen Music Center is so proud to support Chris Sprague in her efforts to bring quality music education to the students in Bradleyville. She exemplifies everything that a teacher should be. She provides her students with a wealth of knowledge, a loving embrace, and when needed, a swift kick in the rear. There is no secret why she has been so incredibly successful in Bradleyville. We love you Chris!

If you have comments or questions for Chris, she can be reached by email at cspr[email protected].

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