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Zachary Gates Teaching Philosophy

When trying to develop a stance on teaching and how it should be done, I believe the first thing that must be considered is what we actually want to accomplish at the end of our school day, end of our semester, and end of our school year. There has been a degree of cheesiness and clich associated with the saying Its for the kids, but I believe there is still a great deal of weight assigned to this way of thinking. When we think about our product as teachers, are we serving to just drive the economy of the country we are teaching in? The state and federal government gives money to schools to do just that, dont they? Its my belief that our product should not just be good future GDP producers, or just good musicians, but good people. A music teachers goal has been much more accomplished if by the time that student has left his or her classroom, they dont just sing a major scale better, read rhythms better, and know who Mozart is, but while learning these things, theyve also learned how to be better people. This means character, personality, world/culture awareness, personability, and a better understanding of morality and the importance of teamwork and community. Its also my belief that through thoughtful and well-planned curriculum building, music classes can and should foster a community and environment that promotes healthy learning and healthy learners. When we view the teachers job as more then just building skills and knowledge, but building people, the question arises: Are we qualified? Do we have

the skills, and should we have the skills to be able to correctly build a student? Even as non-psychologists and non-therapists I believe we do. Under NJPST 2: Human Growth and Development, it spells out that we have a responsibility for the student welfare and character as a developing person in society. In the education program, we are made to take two semesters of psychology courses to be able to start thinking about this responsibility. Also, going back to teachers not being certified psychologists or therapists, there is another entity in our students lives that has an immense effect on their character and development and is not a certified psychologist or therapist: Their parents or guardians who, statistically, have a low probability of being a psychologist or therapist. After this, the teacher must start to think about his or her wishes and how they relate to the wishes and visions for students that are held by the parents, administration, and state. This will directly affect the content of their curriculum and how they teach within their curriculum. A special carefulness has to be applied to this type of thinking when dealing with younger students, and when you yourself are a younger teacher. Lack of experience as a teacher has the potential to make yourself be perceived (subconsciously or consciously) ,by those previously mentioned entities in your community, as less qualified to be able to shape children as people. I believe an awareness of this tension is the best prevention to any uncomfortable meetings or conversations. I do not believe that your teaching philosophy should be sacrificed for the wants of the entities of the community, but you should be have an awareness that you are a newcomer in an educational environment that has been around much

longer then you have, with people in it that have been around much longer than you have. Does this mean nothing can change and you cant make the classroom your own? No. You must make it your own. But the younger you are, and the younger your students are, the more carefully you must tread to see to it that your teaching philosophy and curriculum tendencies fit into the context of the community you are teaching in. If it cannot, you are in the wrong community and owe it to yourself as a teacher to find a community that you can fit into. The teacher must, in accordance with basic logic as well as NJPST 11: Professional Responsibility, always conduct himself in the community he teaches in (and all other places) with the upmost amount of professionalism. This includes hours in and out of school as well. The teacher must always be a role model to students as a good person that has a strong moral structure and character. Any deviation from this is not only a reflection on the teacher as a giver of knowledge, but on the teacher as a human being. Once we have established how we want to build our students as people, we should focus on how we will motivate them to succeed. There should and can be an inherent drive in our students to be able to succeed and progress in their musical studies. I believe that the pressure to be accepted by your peers can be a destructive influence on the development of a student, but can also be a blessing at the same time. While this peer pressure sometimes results in cigarette smoking, substance abuse, and other risk-taking behaviors, it is the same pressure that tells a student that he or she should want to sing well in front of her peers. Its the same pressure that makes one student want his or her music theory grades to be as high as

everyone elses. When this pressure turns into anxiety, we have another blessing/curse situation. On one hand, performance anxiety in the music classroom can be a stress that inhibits our students ability to learn and grow and can bring up some non-happy emotions. On the other hand, this form of performance anxiety is just a musical version of the performance anxiety our students will experience in other settings, whether it be an interview, presentation, or other leadership responsibilities in the future. If we can use performance anxiety as a learning tool, we can, through music, help teach our kids good ways of handling performance anxiety as well as how to react appropriately to general stresses in our lives. To make sure that, as a teacher, you are not pushing too hard and not pushing too little, I think an important concept to remember was laid out by J. Dewey. He stated that the obstacles, difficulties, or problems that students encounter in school should be carefully selected to ensure that they are a part of the students world, not ones that are artificially created by us this means that the giving of problems, the putting of questions, the assigning of tasks, the magnifying of difficulties ought to meet criteria. I think a good first question to ask would be Does it honor their world? and thats what it really boils down to. Does it honor my students world to make due a 5-page paper on Beethoven with 6 cited sources, none being Wikipedia, even though I know that most of the freshman class has a world history test on around that day? By creating assignments that honor our students world and by managing student difficulties like performance anxiety, we set them up for success, with appropriate challenges and obstacles, so that we can begin to see our effects on the motivation of our students. They will not be

overwhelmed or underwhelmed if we construct assignments, lessons, and overall curricula that are aware of the environment our students reside in. This state of equilibrium or balance is crucial to the welfare of students and to the efficiency of their education. Now in terms of equilibrium there is a cycle known as The Students Cycle of Environmental Interaction.

In short, you give an assignment as an activity and with that activity comes obstacles that the student must overcome. These obstacles cause tension and therefore disequilibrium in the student. Through problem solving or steps of a lesson plan and teacher guidance, our students can learn to adapt to these obstacles and overcome them, thus paving the way for equilibrium. After equilibrium is achieved, it is an educative environment, so there will be another assignment or activity to start the ball rolling again.

The activity does not always have to be an assignment. Sometimes this activity will be an assessment. There is a great deal of talk on assessment and how to make musical assessment quantitative. Pushes for quantitative assessment for teachers have been started so that this way, districts and states can assess educators more efficiently and more thoroughly. Pushes by government have also leaned towards quantitative assessment for students in the music classroom. It is my belief that there is a time and place for this kind of assessment (the kind that can be put into strict numbers) and you will need to give your students end-of-year grades to mark their improvement and effort in your class, but trying to increase the amount of this assessment is a mistake in my opinion. Science is measured in numbers, and math is number-ology. In history, you learn a certain number of facts to be memorized and repeated on a test, on which you may or may not get a certain number of questions correct. To try to apply a forcedly increasing amount of number-based assessment to music education for students is the equivalent to trying to put orange peels over apples so that we can better identify apples as fruit. Do I believe teachers should be numerically evaluated for educative efficiency? Yes. But that should only factor into a portion of that teachers total evaluation. They were not hired based solely on numeric or quantitative assessment from the employer. They should not be evaluated those ways then. As for assessments for students in the music classroom, there are many ways in elementary music education that teachers assess a students ability to learn and master a skill. Usually through the mere presence of understanding and ability when it comes to certain tasks serves as enough proof that those tasks demands have been

met. It must be up to the teacher to be able to see and keep track of the progress of his or her students. There are many little instances during a lesson plan where students can demonstrate their knowledge by classroom participation. This is why we should factor classroom participation into the final grade. To what degree is up to you, but I personally think it should be at least greater than 20% and less than 40%. After that, character-building tasks can be assessed through keeping track of and numerically rewarding class preparedness. Class preparedness being always having a pencil for choir, putting marks in music, and practicing repertoire outside of the classroom develops good work ethic in the student. These things are important. As a teacher, I will hold quartet testing, and will assign papers and worksheets. For these types of assessment, there will be rubric style grading (which they will see the criteria for well in advance). There is a necessity for measurable and quantitative assessment, but this kind of assessment all the time does not honor the worlds of our students, and will therefore not motivate them to do any better. It will be an artificial obstacle created for no reason other than being an obstacle. By differentiating assessment we can help create more healthy learners. The only fear when reducing the emphasis on number and letter grades is that students have less of self-awareness when it comes to their own progress of development. Without that number or letter after everything they do, how do they know how well they are doing? Will they lose motivation because they are the type of person that lives off of those kinds of numbers? I stated previously that I am not completely bashing and cutting that type of assessment, as differentiated

assessment is not the same as just a single type of alternative assessment. Secondly, even if the mix of types of assessment does not give your student what they need, you as a teacher must be self-aware and judge whether or not you are assessing each individual student effectively, and you must make sure that there is an open and healthy channel/forum of dialogue and communication between the student and teacher. This self-awareness is key and shows that the teacher must be an effective and efficient communicator and seeker of professional development. Reaching a little back to the Students Cycle of Environmental Interaction The idea of learning and being in a cycle varying states of disequilibrium and equilibrium can be daunting as it never really ends, but I believe that it shows the importance of the idea of life long learning. Professional development for music educators at every level is crucial. It shows that they are aware that we can never have the perfect lesson plan. It shows that no matter what, there is something we can be doing in our classrooms better. Whether its new trends in technology in the classroom, types of assessment, applications of pedagogical techniques, or the basic reading session, there is always something to be learned. Every music educator has the responsibility to want to keep on learning and becoming better. If the music educator does not value his or her own education that he should receive, how can he expect his or her students to value the education that he should give? This leads to the bigger need for the self-aware teacher. If you are self-aware, you always are working to the best and even better, which, like the beginning of this philosophy, sounds cheesy, but can lead to giving what every student deserves: a good music educator.