For those who saw my crazy gibberish blog earlier, sorry…I walked away from the computer and, well, I have a kitten. She thinks she’s very helpful.
I believe that music education should aim to serve every student.
I believe that my students enter with foundations upon which I can help them construct their learning.
I believe that a school music program should mirror the values and needs of its supporting community.
I believe that I should teach less and facilitate more.
I believe in constructivism and what it has to offer my students.
I believe that now is the time to “be the change I wish to see in the world.”
I believe that now is the time to help my students build relationships with music and not barriers from it.
I believe that in order to have people in the world who love, value, and have ongoing relationships with music, I must realize that the children in my classroom will someday be adults and act accordingly.
I believe that classical musics are only a small subset of the many musics that have a place in my classroom.
I believe that children should search for questions, not answers.
I believe that my education is in no way over and should never be over.
I believe that I am a learner too and should open my mind just as I ask my students to.
I believe that I am guilty of aiming my teaching to the potential future professionals in my classroom.
I believe that the potential future aficionados and amateurs in my classroom should have just as much take-away and personal meaning in their music classes as the potential future professionals.
I believe in problematizing and unpacking rather than avoiding.
I believe in a balance of informal learning and formal learning.
I believe that it’s important for me to be aware of my students’ individualities and to cultivate relationships with each.
I believe that music makes a unique contribution to the overall health (mind/body/spirit) of human beings that we cannot replace with anything else.
I believe that every human has the possibility to have a lifelong relationship with music and that the school music education experience can have significant effects on that relationship.
I believe that my classroom will be a place where students will solve problems.
I believe that instead of (or perhaps in service of) broadening my students’ musical boundaries, I must broaden my own musical boundaries.
The change that it would take to widely implement specialized programs in our schools was pretty overwhelming to me. To quote Reimer on the first page of the chapter in one of the bullet points, “Bold plans are needed to restructure elective music programs, teacher education, research and scholarship, and organizational support.” This is something we can begin to try and build upon in our own schools, but true and full use of specialized music programs would require a huge overhaul, especially in music teacher preparation programs.
The aim of a specialized music program is to provide deeper focus (rather than wider coverage) into one or more of the musical roles. What would this look like? I think it could take on many forms, but basically, I see it functioning best at a modified level in middle schools and full-fledged in high schools. What I mean is that middle schools might have some sort of specialization options (like independent studies?) in their general music classes, and high schools would eliminate general music courses (like music in our lives) in favor of specialized courses, such as composing, aiming for each student in them to develop at the amateur level in one musical role. This might involve viewing other musical roles from the point of view of the chosen role, but would ultimately focus on the one. Right now, I think that some high school theory courses are beginning to do this. I know that many do a unit or project in composition, which is ultimately viewed through the theory perspective in order to strengthen their analysis skills. This is a great step in the right direction, and I hope that I can help carry my someday school further in it by offering other possibilities. I think this could be best achieved by having different offerings every year or perhaps every semester, so that different students’ interests could be accommodated over their four years without needing tons of teachers to teach tons of things all at once.
However, I mentioned in a previous blog that I have another possible vision of how specialized learning could take place in our school music programs without offering actual different electives. What if we did offer a course (say, “Exploring Music”) in which each student was allowed to explore their interests through an independent study? The course would certainly never be the same twice, and the students could use each other’s chosen “specialties” in sharing sessions. There could be room for students to visit/contact and utilize local specialists in their chosen role, and ultimately the students would share each other’s work with one another so that each could at least see other musical roles through a peer’s work. This is something I may explore if I ever have the chance. The only concern I have is one teacher getting enough attention to each student, but ideally, the teacher as facilitator would simply exist to help students create their own problems and perhaps seek resources.
An assumption that can and should be made here is that teachers are actually qualified to teach everything that they do teach. In the first scenario in which specific electives are offered, you would either have to have an actual specialized teacher in each musical role (which sadly does not really exist at this point), or would have to restrict your offerings to whatever the school’s particular staff had enough expertise to offer. Nobody on the music faculty has studied composition? Oh well, I guess we’ll have to hope that no students are interested in composition. However, in the second “independent study” scenario, one teacher would need to be able to facilitate any number of interests and roles. In theory, that means that every teacher is a specialist in, well, everything. We all know it doesn’t work that way, but…if we’re encouraging our students to function in these roles, why can’t we- professionals with at least the minimal experience in each role required by our degree programs- function in them far enough to help our students? Do we have to know everything at all times, or is it okay to explore things WITH an actual student rather than (in college) FOR imaginary someday students? If I don’t know something (or if I do, and I have some other reason for saying so) I will often say to my students “you know what? I don’t really know, but let’s find out.” The key to that is “let’s.” Teachers can learn too! (Warning: this may shock your students.)
Finally, I wanted to address another assumption that was made in class that I would like to break down a bit; briefly unpack, if you will. It was mentioned that perhaps specialized programs/specialization are not worthwhile because it doesn’t actually or automatically make every student suddenly want to take music. (This is especially of concern in high school, when students only HAVE to take one course, and they may choose art or music.) However, I don’t think we have to reach every single student with this construction. By offering electives, we do not guarantee, but at least increase the likelihood that students fulfill their arts credit with something they like (want to take) rather than something they don’t like (have to take). I think we owe that strong possibility to our potential students.
The significant take-away I have from chapter 8 is the concept of the different levels of musical involvement: the aficionado, the amateur, and the professional. It wasn’t the fact that there are different levels that was surprising, or the particular three that Reimer identifies, but the frequency with which we as music educators have an unrealistic balance of attention amongst the three. While we like to imagine that every student will go on with music in some way (most as amateurs) and even hope that some will be professionals just like us, the reality is that many of our students will be aficionados, and in fact, those aficionados still need our help to develop their relationship with music. (Perhaps “need” is a strong word, but I feel as if that’s our role.) Amateurs can be cultivated in specialized programs, but more will come on that in the chapter 9 blog.
One of the many reasons that I think we need to aim more for our aficionados and amateurs is that even aficionadoship (a new word to serve a need) seems unattainable and even uninteresting to some of our students. Why is this? Music is external in schools. They leave their classroom, often to proceed to a totally different part of the building. It’s a “special” like gym or art (I won’t go into all that). There are different materials than they use in their “core” classes, different space(s), and of course a different teacher. However, rather than actually sending the message of the real meaning of the word “special,” music class is somehow being identified as a “why do we have to do this?” requirement for many students. Immediately and by attitude, students come into music class resentful, not necessarily of music at first, but it begins to bleed into their relationship with music. And really, how can we complain? If they had a positive image and attitude about music class, we would want, intend, and expect (all without a word, implied) that THAT feeling would bleed into their relationship with music. So somehow, we need to recreate the images and attitudes surrounding music class right from the getgo. I guess that starts for each of us with ourselves in our own districts.
Since there are three levels, however, we must find ways for our classes to be relevant and worthwhile for the future and current aficionados, amateurs, and professionals all at once. The constructivist approach offers us many opportunities to do so. Endless classroom activities (for lack of a better term- whatever we find ourselves doing with our students) could serve the needs of all three levels by allowing them to not only explore their own interests, but to do so from the standpoint of the experiences they already brought in with them. Ideally, such a system would eliminate any sense of one student being “better” than another by eliminating the usual advantages- the kid who takes piano lessons and sings in a children’s choir wouldn’t necessarily have it any easier in music class than the kid whose musical experiences have yet to go far beyond the car radio.
This brings me to my next point nicely…I helped myself understand the different roles by identifying them with people in my life. I think my aunt is a great example of an aficionado, and my dad is a great example of an amateur. Both clearly experience such joy through music. I identified myself as an example of a professional, but even though I know that I get tons of enjoyment out of music, I realized that it might not always be as obvious to others because it’s become my job, beyond my passion. I feel like I have nothing to say on applications that ask you to list your “interests” because it’s like well, I already listed all that stuff under all the other categories you asked about….which were job-related. I felt like a total deadbeat when I got to college because almost all the stuff I’d always done for fun (extracurriculars like marching band) became either my coursework or my work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to get credit or get paid for doing something you love, but sometimes I just have to make music for fun to bring myself back to reality. I’ve actually found that I’m really jealous of my dad’s and my aunt’s relationships with music because although technically of the three of us, I “know” music better, sometimes it becomes too tied to requirements for me to remember why I became a professional. This is a sad thing, but my improved understanding thanks to this class has helped me to grasp it better so that I can do something about it!
Before I forget, I have to mention my two greatest take-aways from this course: the words “problematize” and “unpack!” They’ve helped me a lot personally, and I plan to put them to use in my classroom as well.
“It [music] does not exist as a separate entity apart from its social context but is intertwined with and inseparable from it.” –Jorgensen, Transforming Music Education, pg. 30
I wonder what a music program would look like if the social nature of music were embraced in its classrooms. If one were to exclude schools, one would find that most of the functions that music serves for us are social. What is the purpose of a school music program that ignores the social nature of music in our students’ lives? How do we make our students’ musical experiences in school relevant to their musical experiences outside school? Is it even realistic to try to recreate the social contexts that music occurs in outside school, or by doing so do we violate this quote’s assertion that music and its social context are indivisible?
The general music classroom affords us extensive opportunities to attempt to simulate these situations. Unless bound by external requirements, I envision that my general music classroom will exist to serve my students’ explorations of their own musicality. If this is the case, then the only possible thing restricting my students from enjoying relevant musical experiences in my classroom is me, the teacher. My previous wonderment regarding flexibility in teaching encourages me to open up this possibility to my students each and every day.
So what exactly are the social contexts associated with music that I must allow to remain attached to the music that occurs in my classroom? I feel as though these are something that will only be determined by the particular who, what, when, where, and why of each class that comes through my door. The problem with the social context of music is that it is constantly changing depending on the situation, and more importantly for our purposes, on the child. Therefore, the teacher who gives due attention to the social context of music, as Jorgensen affirms we must, will have a built-in need to “stay fresh” in at least the social regard. I also feel that it would be important for me to consider social contexts on a class level as well as an individual level. While each student may be able to share their experience in a particular socio-musical context, the classes as a whole may also have shared musical experiences that, by the nature of classes as groups, would be of a social character. It would be a serious fallacy for me to ignore these influences on my students’ musical lives, but in order to give attention to them in class, I will need to be aware of them outside of class as well. I think that communication and established relationships with my students’ other teachers can help me stay “in the know,” as well as remaining an active and interested community member. Also, my inclination toward the facilitator approach seems to serve this need well, by fostering strong relationships with and awareness of my students.
Turning to the ensemble classroom: how do I preserve music’s relationship with social contexts in my choral ensemble? I think that most importantly, I need to encourage my students to identify the times and places for singing in their lives, cultures, and communities, and to both embrace those myself (regardless of whether they fit my traditional image of the singing that a choral ensemble does) and to help my students make their school choral experience serve the needs of their social singing opportunities. I think that another possible implication of social music in my choral ensemble is a lesser focus on a large ensemble and a greater focus on small ensembles. These may fluctuate, and these also may push the boundaries of tradition, but an open and encouraging attitude from me as the teacher should create an environment in which my students can flourish. Perhaps this is idealist, and perhaps it would vary significantly from one place to the next, but it seems as though a community would happily support a school music program that served its needs and built on their students’ existing social uses for music rather than imposed artificial ones.
I think that the existent social contexts of music can be a great challenge to music educators. Such a challenge can simply create grief for a teacher, or it can present an opportunity to “be the change you want to see.” In order to do this, I am seeing myself less and less as a “teacher” and more and more as a real facilitator: a guide and a tool for my students to use as they navigate and enhance their musical experiences based on experiences they have already had and experiences that they want to have. If music is truly inseparable from its social contexts, then who am I, as an outsider to their actual social lives, to impose the social contexts of others onto their learning opportunities? That is not to say that there is no reason to study such musics, as the study of other social contexts can help inform us about our own, but perhaps it should not continue to constitute the entire music curriculum. Social context could be the key to making music relevant and eliminating the dichotomy of “school music” and “music.”
“Rather than being pretentious plans that are implemented without adjustment and afterward evaluated, plans need to have a somewhat rhapsodic or improvisatory feel because they probably need to be adjusted and fine-tuned while they are being implemented.” –Jorgensen, Transforming Music Education, page 68
I wonder how I go about striking that balance, and after reading this, I even wonder now what that balance is. I’ve known for some time now that a lesson plan is not a be-all end-all, and that a lack of flexibility in teaching creates problems and ultimately disconnect, but I guess that years of indoctrination have led me to believe that the lesson plan still more or less dictates what happens. I’m now questioning that assumption. Is it more of a shame to abandon a well-written plan in order to delve into something unexpected, or to miss the opportunity to enjoy a teachable moment in order to preserve the sanctity of said plan? If we are to truly improvise based on what comes up throughout the course of a lesson, why plan at all? What would it look like to walk into a class without a plan? On the next level, what would it look like to walk into a class without a curriculum? I would like to explore each of these ideas as they might fit into my teaching.
I feel like this quote implies that there is no place for pre-written plans. I can think of several off the top of my head, but as I go through that short list, I’m not sure of their legitimacy. Is it really okay to allow a substitute to read off a script? If she does, does any learning take place? If she is not capable of teaching any further than reading a script, then are we hiring the right subs? (Veering off-topic, but I must add it: should we instead be hiring as subs the probably thousands of qualified teachers who are unable to find full-time employment?) What about those days when the kids are lethargic? Is it okay then to let the kids sit back and be spoon fed? Those are two examples of times that I often see lesson plans followed to the last letter, but as I think about it, maybe this is unnecessary. So, is there a place for pre-written plans? Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but I tend to notice that the lessons I consider the most successful and generative are the ones in which I floated in some arena of what I planned, but let the kids take the lesson somewhere that I wasn’t necessarily planning for, but certainly wasn’t opposed to.
The first time I found myself truly 100% comfortable with the idea of letting go of the piece of paper with the plan on it was when I took school health and we discussed grief in the classroom. Without going into too much detail, the power of the overwhelming topic of grief (especially as it affects children) was the first thing that made me feel like it was okay to really go off into something that wasn’t in the plan, maybe not even in the curriculum, but is relevant to my students’ lives that day and is ultimately important to their development in the big picture. (Certainly not every such moment is as grave as this, but even seemingly small musical ideas can make a lesson very powerful for students.) If I don’t stop to address something like grief, what message does that send my students? “It’s not okay to feel the way I do, or at least not to talk about it.” Even the most executive of teachers would have to step back and realize that ignoring something powerful (not necessarily negative like grief- positive things can be just as important to unpack in the classroom) not only sends the wrong message, but will probably prevent any real learning that day, as the students will likely be distracted and unfocused.
Speaking of the executive approach, I can’t help but feel as if the loyal completion of a plan with no breathing room fits very neatly into the executive approach to teaching. “This is what they need to know, and this is, to my knowledge, an effective way to transmit it- why stray from that?” The hardest part about allowing flexibility in your plans seems to be the associated forfeiture of control, and since control is an implied feature of the executive approach, it seems as though any teacher with any executive tendencies would struggle with this. Although I generally do not consider myself an executive, I’m discouraged by the realization that often, I do struggle with this, and therefore perhaps need to work harder to practice what I preach!
Back to the classroom with no plan, or the one with no curriculum: I do believe that with the right set of circumstances, a teacher can “get away with” walking in with no plan. With an advanced choral ensemble, for example, I’d like to think that I can walk in and ask the students to tell me what they’d like to do, and still have a meaningful lesson. (Experience tells me that these can sometimes be the MOST meaningful.) However, I’m trying to imagine walking into fifth grade general music with no plan. Right now, I’d be terrified. However, I’m starting to realize that at the least, I should be offering my students opportunities and choices. Perhaps I have the aforementioned well-written plan in my back pocket, but perhaps I offer the students the reins first. The only thing about having that plan, though, is that if I know it’s there, I tend to follow it. I’m trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that in a choir, you presumably at least have music selected- between a teacher and many students, someone can surely come up with something to do that provides a learning opportunity! However, in a general music classroom, I’m a little more nervous. From what context and resources do the students draw their power to drive the lesson in a new direction? I’m sure that this would depend entirely on the established curriculum for that class. If students had an arena of choice, they would be less intimidated to raise questions and suggest new possibilities. On an even smaller level than being offered the chance to drive a lesson, sometimes students unintentionally bring up a chance to do so, and here it is up to the teacher to take the opportunity or not. (She must first notice it before she can take it- those who do not turn on their imaginary radar for teachable moments probably do not notice them even when they fall right in their lap with a thud.)
On a larger level than steering a particular day’s plan, can a teacher surrender total control of an entire course’s curriculum to allow the students the chance to direct their own learning? We discussed an example of this in class (I believe it was regarding a high school general music class), and I am inspired. I think the music education profession would do itself a favor to offer every general music class this option. Again, I see hurdles in the existing system, in which multiple teachers in single districts would not necessarily know or control what knowledge their students walked in with, but if the class they’re walking into allowed the same freedom, would it matter? Here, I see the possibility for individualization to soar, and standardization to expire.
The interrelatedness of ideas that I came in with some knowledge of and ideas that were new to me in this course really allowed me to build a new understanding of music education philosophies. On a very basic level, I have been wondering for some time about the functions of modernism and postmodernism in education. Making this connection for me seemed awkwardly cross-disciplinary at first, but I have come to find that the concepts absolutely exist within music education.
Another major instance of interrelatedness that I was not fully aware of but not entirely surprised by was the relationship between the facilitator approach to teaching, constructivism, and the concept of multiple intelligences. In my previous experiences, I have not only seen all three used together but have considered myself a proponent of all three. Later in my education, as each was considered individually, I sought to learn more and continued to build my understanding of ideas that resonated with me strongly. Here, as I read descriptions of the three, I found that they are not only interrelated, but unfold into each other. The hard boundaries break down as the multiple intelligences serve constructivism which serves the facilitator approach.
As I read, discuss, listen, and write, I am constantly finding instances of interrelatedness, to the point that I feel that interrelatedness is truly a key theme of music education and its philosophies and issues. It becomes increasingly difficult to consider singular concepts, a problem from which I am beginning to understand further why our classrooms should be explorations of music as music (many concepts interrelated), rather than music as isolated concepts. Music and music education are webs of interrelatedness.
I think I must focus on the idea of popular music as “foreign,” because it really struck me. “It is time- no, beyond the time- for us to embrace the foreign (to us) music of popular culture as worthy of our best efforts as educators, efforts to enhance its pleasures, broaden its understanding and appreciation, and contribute meaningfully to its ongoing vitality.” If popular music(s) is what our students are experiencing and embracing in their lives, then we as educators need to wake up and smell the coffee! There is a time and a place for what we are so thoroughly steeped in, but that time and place is not the greater part of our curriculum in our music classrooms. This really makes me question the practices of music schools. I know that there are important reasons to study classical music as music education undergraduate majors, but that really doesn’t fully prepare me for the music education that my students want and need. That’s pretty scary for me, mostly because it’s a drastic change that I don’t ever see happening in largely elitist academia. This brings me to what I mentioned in class, as our visitor Katelyn helped me realize: instead of putting so much energy into broadening our students’ musical boundaries (AKA bringing classical music to them), perhaps we should be spending our efforts to broaden our own boundaries. I’m not sure that I’m ready to take my sponsor teacher’s advice and regularly watch the Disney channel at home, but I’m really starting to see her point.
I didn’t want to go into it in class, but my dad is a truly awesome example of a person who has successfully cultivated a lifelong relationship with music. (Long story short, his 60’s rock band- made almost entirely of amateur musicians in their 60’s- truly rocks and it’s a really important and fulfilling part of each of their lives.) My dad can’t read music at all, but I will always be jealous of his effortless ability to harmonize- literally almost anything. I started thinking about this when Dr. Campbell mentioned the idea of notation as a fetish. I am really struggling with this since I am someone who has believed that music literacy is a crucial skill that my students need (choral students, at least), and I am totally uncomfortable with the idea of a choir that learns entirely by rote, but yet I can see that my dad’s ear can get him almost anywhere. Some of the greatest music-making in my life has been collaborations with my dad, which I’ve always felt is because of the balance between us- my “booksmart” (if you will) knowledge of music combined with his natural abilities.
Something that Jesse said led me in a new direction on this. Jesse was talking about informal vs. formal learning, and what the place of formal learning is. Something that he said made me right down that “formality can be individualized.” I think that popular musics and the needs of people like my dad provide a perfect stage for this to occur. Jesse’s idea (correct me if I’m wrong, Jesse!) seemed to be that perhaps we start with an informal approach, but ultimately our informal learning experiences serve to help us build our own formal learning setup. I was thinking about my dad again when he said this. Many (40+) years of my dad’s life have been spent informally learning music, and yet now, even I can describe to you the formal process that he has developed to learn a new song. It’s not the same as everyone else’s, but it certainly works for him and knowing that, how can I dismiss it? He gets everything out of music that we’ve been discussing- all the “why music” sorts of things- so what is he missing? Notation? If rock tunes have gotten him this far, why should he and people like him not be the model of the aficionados or amateurs that we want our young students to grow up to be?
I don’t know if this is entirely correct, but at this point I am connecting informality with non-traditional learning in my mind. (I opted not to use the word “equate,” because I know there are differences, but for the most part, they serve similar functions.) So, if, as I and Jesse suggest, we start with informal learning in a quest to build our own structure of formal learning, then how can we continue to approach popular musics in traditional ways? Dr. Campbell described this today as “old wine in new bottles.” Considering it that way, it seems cheap and inauthentic. I can’t help but think of the crappy SAB arrangements of pop tunes that come out 2 seconds after it hits the airwaves. I’m not saying that those tunes don’t have a place in our choirs (different subject that I’m pretty sure we’ve talked into the ground!), but things like those arrangement seem like poor attempts to “legitimize” them, which, as we discussed, means attempts to fit square pegs into round holes.
Finally, I must incorporate some thoughts on our discussion of the three teaching approaches. They’ve been a really crucial part of my growth and understanding over the past three weeks! Without reading anything, I was able to guess that I would fit most neatly into the “facilitator” approach, due to my past experiences at a constructivist conference that heavily emphasizes facilitation. As I read on, I discovered that yes, of the three, I do primarily consider myself a facilitator. However, I also affirmed a suspicion and discovered a problem: A) I figured that even though I would be mostly a facilitator, I figured that there would be elements of the other two approaches that appeal to me and my teaching, and there were. B) I am not exemplifying facilitation in my teaching to the extent that I would expect a true facilitator to. This is a problem that I plan to address over the coming years. As I do so, back to letter A- I have thought a lot over the past few days about the combination of the three approaches that constitute my teaching approach. Last week, in a small group discussion, I alluded to the idea of being certain percentages of each approach- for example, 78% facilitator, 14% liberationist, and 8% executive. Then, I mentioned in class one day that I wish I hadn’t put numbers on it- I think it’s more appropriate to say “mostly, more, and less” or something like that. However, today, an image came into my head. It reminded me of oil and water, or other liquids that do not mix, floating around in the same container but never mixing. The word “balance” seemed most appropriate, but even more specifically, it is a balance that fluctuates constantly as our teaching and as our students change and as, in the day to day, we ask ourselves “what approach would fit best in teaching this?” Even as I write this, I have another adjustment to make to my mental image of this concept! I don’t think that the approaches can’t mix, as oil and water. I think that at times, a little bit of executive might mix into the facilitator, and so on and so forth.
In both incorporating a more realistic and appropriate exploration of popular musics in my classrooms and combining the three teaching approaches as necessary, I anticipate a lot of balancing in my activities as a teacher!
I really latched on to the description of music as “sounds organized to be inherently meaningful,” and also the idea that this kind of allows room for things that are slightly beyond this. If music is about inherent meaning, then music educators need to highlight this in every way, time, and place possible, rather than comforting people with external effects! Merriam’s 10 functions of music are real-life uses of and meanings for music. If a curriculum actually served these functions, which are ultimately the functions important to a community, I feel like the need to defend our programs (or maybe even music as a subject in general) could magically disappear! We’re not trusting music to exemplify its greatest possibilities in our classrooms (the possibilities that provide meanings), and so it’s ultimately the profession’s own fault that we have to defend ourselves.
When we were asked to consider the meaning of music education, my strongest conviction was that music has a unique contribution to the overall health (mind/body/spirit) of human beings. There are certainly other ways to contribute to our health in each of those arenas, but music is a source of health as a whole. It’s definitely one of those things that you can’t quite put words on or prove (although many stories from the music therapy profession can certainly inch you closer to it), but those who allow themselves to experience that special kind of health know it well and often seek opportunities to build upon it. I will start an if-then with a quote from Reimer…”if education is to help children become what their human condition enables them to become,” and if music education is to help children become what the unique musical aspect of their human condition enables them to become, then we cannot ignore this huge opportunity as music educators. Overall health is not ultimately something that is created and maintained in schools, but we can plant a seed in schools so that students can create a “lifelong relationship with music” that allows them to self-actualize in ways that other subjects do not allow them to.
Another thing that I know is that music exists in every culture, which serves as evidence of its pervasiveness to all humanity. If music is important enough to humans to exist in literally every documented culture worldwide, then how can we NOT study it and pursue a relationship with it, both individually and as a species? I think this is a persuasive reason to begin the journey of exploring “why music” both for us as educators and for our students. I will avoid straying into a discussion which really belongs in chapter 6…but the fact that each culture in the world has nurtured its own musical culture makes a powerful statement about its place in human life. Do we “need” it? To me, that’s a yes.
Something that Dr. Campbell said really sparked something for me in my idea of what it means to make music meaningful for students. For one thing, I realized (remembered, something along those lines) that making music meaningful for students doesn’t have to be restricted to that student in that moment, although that’s also an aspect that cannot be neglected- but I as a teacher can also consider those students as future adults and functioning members of society. When Dr. Campbell said that third graders will someday be voters (including voters on musical items in school budgets), it hit me how much I need to ensure that my students, no matter how young, are not fumbling in some abstract “music” class, but are instead beginning or continuing to construct (verb) their lifelong construct (noun) of music. When Dr. Campbell then added that one of those third graders may someday be a principal, these thoughts were strengthened. I’ve always felt that a meaningful, reality-based music program (and the teachers who offer it) depends heavily on the support of administrators, and I can think of several examples of music programs that thrive on their relationship with one particularly supportive administrator for whom music continues to be an important part of their life. Even though I was sure of this, I was never quite sure how to solve that problem- well, then, how does that work if you don’t exactly get to choose your administrators? I think I have a better idea now- you don’t CHOOSE them, you CREATE them when they are impressionable children in your classes! You may never personally see the fruit of that labor, but the music education as a profession will value that choice later. I want each of my students (and their future adult versions) to value music in their lives and have positive relationships with it, whether they will become professional musicians who use it every day or (more likely) professional anything elses who hopefully choose to use it every day, but I especially hope that for those who will someday hold the music education of many children in their hands (like administrators, board members, lawmakers) and who I would want to make informed decisions based on personal experiences! Someone I know and respect greatly who works near and for music every day (but is not a “musician”) made a comment around me just the other day about not remembering anything about her general music class in elementary school, and unintentionally spoke about it negatively. I joked “hey, that’s my career you’re talking about!” and she said “well, I’m sure you’re much more interesting than the teacher I had!” This said two things to me: A) I’d better be, and if I’m not, I’d better strive to be! and B) I, and so many others who benefit from this person’s work for the world of music every day in many ways, are SO lucky that for some reason, this person continues to choose to serve music both professionally and personally, which is surprising now that I know this person had a negative or at least unimpressive set of music experiences as a child.
Finally, I would like to address something within the issue of caring, which we discussed in the context of the facilitator approach in our case study discussions today. My group mentioned the use of the following type of comment: “Everyone look at Liz, she’s doing a great job of (whatever Liz is exemplifying that you want your other students to do)!” It was mentioned that perhaps this is wrong for some sort of reason that goes against caring about your students. I have to say that I use comments like this whenever appropriate, and it’s BECAUSE I care about my students. The if-then of this: IF I care about my students, THEN I should not be afraid to compliment their work and allow other students to view a model of what a great job might look like! (There are wrong ways to do this too, I know- I do try to avoid those.) Something that Greg said the other day is worth mentioning here- “don’t compliment the student, compliment the work.” I don’t necessarily want Liz to think that she’s perfect all the time so she can stop trying, and I don’t necessarily want my other students to feel inferior to Liz and foster negative relationships, but if Liz is doing a great job of something that I’ve asked, and the other students would benefit from seeing what she’s done, then it might be wrong of me to hide that exemplar from them. There are several other “caring” reasons to use this, and not use other comments in its place: a) I care enough about Liz to let her know that I noticed the good work she did. b) I care enough about my other students to share a good resource with them. c) I care enough about, say, Katie not to say “Katie, you’re doing an awful job,” or “Katie’s doing something I don’t want to see- everyone look at Katie so you know what not to do” (extreme examples!), so I replace it with a positive.
I am continually challenging my current thoughts and practices in ways such as those described above- and I find myself digging further into my reasons for doing things and either justifying myself (as described above) or finding that maybe I can (and need to) change some things if I want to be the music educator that I envision when we have these discussions!