Quotes for the moment

Today, I saw these two pics during my prep period.  Thanks to   and   for these quotes.

I decided to write them on the whiteboard and see what happened. 

What happened was really interesting…

Initially I had thought I would save the quotes for the next day but I was worried I might forget:) So I decided to write them on the board right then and there.  It might be seen by one class (my prep is 6th period and then I teach one more class before the school bell rings) but I was hopeful.

See…this class had struggled yesterday.  They were feeling tired after the weekend and out of their comfort zone because we were doing “CHOREOGRAPHY”! We had ended the class yesterday with a short, 5 minute, discussion on how the pattern we were seeing each day was making it so we weren’t going to be ready for the concert in 14 school days.  We talked about how to overcome their fears and how each of them was important to the team. I hoped for the best for today.

I said nothing about the quotes on the board as they came in.  I just listened and watched.  Each student had their own response.  Some didn’t notice anything.  Some glanced and kept moving towards their seat.  And then it happened.  I heard this small yet audible gasp.  I looked over to where it came from.  I found the source and loved the look I received.  It was as if a lightbulb had gone off in my student’s head.  She was surprised but seemed excited. She even made a comment which to the effect that she loved the play on words. She had noticed the quote on success and it really resounded with her.  Once she noticed, more students noticed.  Then they noticed the other quote. It was so interesting to continue to watch their responses.  This only took a couple of minutes but I was truly excited for what I was seeing.

I asked them what they thought of the quotes.  This let into a short discussion (again only about 5 minutes as those seem to powerful time spans) into what we each thought.  The amazing thing was in the way that they participated today.  I still had one that was visibly tired and felt sorry and somewhat worried for him but even he still gave a lot.

We started where we last left off. They practice, they worked, they created success.  We were even able to continue to work so well that they finished the piece. This was something that didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen.  It was complete turnaround.  We even reviewed the beginning of another piece and were able to add a new part to that one.  The new part REALLY took them out of the comfort zone but they did it and they did it well.

The things I have learned from my PLN on Twitter has been so ideal that I won’t be stopping my learning any time soon.

I know there are many more quotes I have LIKED so I can have access to them and I know there are many more I will find but I am thankful for the quotes I saw at that moment. It changed everything.

 

Choral Intent

What is Choral Intent? 

Choral Intent is the process in which a group determines what needs to be done.  

What does that have to do with Choir? 

Well, choir is all about the group.  At least it should be.

I know…you’re saying “Well, my choir (band, orchestra, theater) director was the one always in charge.” He/she dictated what we were going to do or sing, when we were going to do it, and how we were going to do it.  To some extent, you’re right.  The director is very important to the group.  He/she has to have a vast knowledge about music, where it comes from, background knowledge about genres and/or composers, conducting skills, interpretation skills, etc.  However, in reality, a choir director can only direct students.

This is the way I see it:

A director shares what they know and together with the students, they create something new and unique from anyone else.  No group will ever perform that same way.  It might be similar but it won’t be the same.  The same director could work with two different groups and the results will still be different. That’s because the overall group, although it has the same director, is vastly different.  It is inherently unique.

So, what does this have to do with my class (I don’t teach choir)?

I think it’s the same principle.  The teacher is just like a director.  It is your job to share knowledge that you have as it pertains to the subject(s) you teach. However, you can’t stop there.  You need to remember that the students have to take ownership of their learning. The only way to do that is to facilitate their learning by allowing and encouraging creation within the group.  It not only shows students how to work together more efficiently, the product is by far greater than it could be with just you at the helm.

Let me give you an example:

One of my choirs is full of 7th grade girls.  I can’t teach them like I teach the other classes, even the other one that is also full of 7th grade girls. I can’t teach them the same because they aren’t the same.  This group of girls has a large portion of dancers in the class.  These girls spend two, three, four or even five days each week at dance classes.  The days they have dance, they dance from 3:30-9:00pm.  WOW!  I didn’t have to spend that much time when I was doing theater!  We are currently getting ready for our final concert of the school year and we are working on choreography.  Most of the classes prefer to have me choose the basics of the movement with some input from the students.  This class, I knew needed to have some control over what they were going to put out.  It’s just the best way to get them excited about performing.

Let me give you an NON-CHOIR example:

When teaching 6th grade, I was charged with teaching my students about the Solar System.  Now, I could have just taught them the basics about planet, had them notes, etc. etc. Instead, I got them outside and we set up an experiment where the intent was to introduce the students to the solar system.  I didn’t create it myself.  I had already been taught this.  I was just sharing my knowledge.  The students were given a planet, moon or other space object to represent.  Then they were given the distances away from the sun.  Their job was to figure out how far away they would have to stand if one foot equalled x amount of miles.  It was awesome to watch and communicate with the students.  This took time but boy did they learn about distance.  After the activity, they wanted to learn more.  So I asked them to find out about the object they represented.  It was so much fun for them to explore, learn and share what they found out with each other.  I even learned tons more about the Solar System than I had previously known.

What is Choral Intent? 

Choral Intent is the process in which a group determines what needs to be done.  

To me…choral intent is when a group comes together and works together for a purpose.  Sometimes, they have to work on their own for a while in order to prepare for the group purpose but in the end it always makes it better!

Choral Biases

When I think of choral bias, I immediately think of the comparisons that are often made between instrumentalists and singers.

Let me explain: 

 

When I was in high school, we had band and choir.  I participated only in choir, as that was my love, but I had many friends in band.  We hung out, we talked music, we participated in musicals together, etc.  It didn’t seem to matter whether you were in the band or the choir or both.

However, when I got to college I was in a for HUGE shock.  Not only was I a small fish in a big pond where competition amongst was enormous but now I had to contend with those who looked down on me.  The first class I remember attending that had both instrumentalists and singers in it was my piano class.

Now, I had taught myself how to play the piano simply because my grandparents didn’t believe I actually wanted to learn the instrument. Thankfully, they saw my desire and got me into lessons. The problem was in that I had taught myself so much, the teachers I had assumed I had more technical skills than I did.  This plagued me for years.  Because of the lessons I ended up taking from my choir teacher (who was a fabulous pianist) I continued to get better at playing and even accompanied one of the choirs I sang in on multiple occasions.  However, my technical skills still weren’t that fabulous when it came to scales, arpeggios, and Hanon (since I had never heard of that until I got to college).

Anyway, the first day of piano class came and we all introduced ourselves.  As soon as I said that I was a vocal major, I saw an immediate response that SHOCKED me.  A vast majority of the students looked at me with disgust on their face as though being a singer was a “less than musician”.  Some even voiced that opinion.  They said things like, “Oh…you’re a singer” and “Do you even know what the piano is?” The teacher even shared their opinions.  Every day after that, I felt as though I had to prove my worth as a musician.

Ok…I know, you’re out there saying “Well that’s just one class!”. Well, I hate to say it but you’re wrong.  That was only the first one.  Every theory, sight singing, dictation, or conducting class, etc. where musicians were not separated by instrument, I got the same response.  I didn’t get it.  Why did they think singers weren’t good enough?  Why did there seem to be such bias?

I have had many years to ponder this and experienced more instances when this happened both in and out of school.  I’ve even seen it as a choir teacher from my students’ parents.  Why does this happen?

One of my colleagues, that is a trombonist and teaches orchestra, and I talked about this.  He had never thought about the things that I shared.  Yet, as we were discussing my experiences and feelings, he realized that he too had participated in such events.  He admitted making fun of the lack of musicianship he had seen in singers.

Over the years, I’ve had many theories.  They usually come down to the teachers and/or parents that pass on bias to their students.  This is usually in the form of how difficult it is to play and instrument compared to how easy it is to just open your mouth and sing. Not even looking at how difficult it is to maintain pitch with or without accompaniment, how difficult it is to maintain respiration just as a trumpeter or oboist.

However, I have also noticed that too often there are singers that decide they want to be music majors but have failed to prepare themselves for the rigors of the program as much as they should.  Sometimes, they have been repeatedly advised to prepare but have failed to do so. Unfortunately, more often than not, they get to college unprepared because they either didn’t have a teacher to inform them of the requirements, a teacher that was qualified to inform them or a teacher that spent all of their time making choir “FUN” that the skills of a musician never got taught.  The students sounded great but didn’t understand what they were singing, why they were singing it or how it was created.

Both of these theories may not have been proven but they did seem to align with what I hearing from my colleague.  He felt I was definitely on right track. 

Well, the bias I have, has definitely been influenced by my experiences because of the feeling I had of always having to prove my worth.

It manifests itself in how rigorous my choral program is and the expectations I put on myself to prepare for class every day.  It meant that my first year I put an inordinate amount of pressure on myself to create that rigor and maintain it.

It manifests itself in what pieces I choose, what I teach my students, and the standard that has been placed on my students as I try to create a solid program that can compete with two of the finest musicians I have been privileged to work with…the band and orchestra teachers. Their skills make me want to be better.  They never try to make me feel inferior, yet I do.  The bias I have lived with for so long still performs in my mind and constantly recreates itself so I feel like I am still proving my worth.

I find that those same biases I complain about, I have had for my students.  I found myself, in my first year, comparing students based on whether they had taken piano lessons or not prior to taking my class.  I was finding myself wanting to teach to those students who had previous musical experience before those who had not.   What a terrible thing to do!

Thankfully, I realized what I was doing.  I can’t say it was a quick realization but at least it happened.  I realized that just because one of my students has had musical training prior to my class does not guarantee they will understand what I have to share with them. Sometimes, it’s the so-called ‘non musician’ that understands it first.  Today, I look at each student, make sure they understand, ask specific questions to check understanding and see how they apply the knowledge.  It is fascinating to me when it all comes together.  

 

Music and Collaboration

If you haven’t already realized I often think and communicate in the form of song, you haven’t read enough of my blog entries;) I don’t go through the day without having had many concourses of songs pass through my mind by the simple expresses of a word or phrase given to me in conversation with students, colleagues or family.

I was just reading an article about how bringing music and song lyrics into the classroom can impact the learning in your classroom.  The author even goes so far as to say:

“It’s amazing how song lyrics dig themselves deep into our minds and stay there our whole lives.

However, when we want to learn something and try to memorize it, it won’t stick as easy as a song will.”

That got me thinking.  

What do you when your WHOLE CLASS is all about music and especially song lyrics? Well, in my case, you try to make sure the lyrics mean something to the students.  You discuss them together, you listen to the student’s thoughts and feelings about the text, you try your best to make them understand why the composer and/or lyricist wrote the lyrics in the way they did.

But this article was about those OTHER CLASSES. 

“Music and lyrics can play powerful roles in the classroom. They can help students remember key content. They can encourage conversations. Plus, there’s great fun in creating music that relates to class content.”

That brought a thought to mind I’ve had many times before:

WHY AREN’T TEACHERS FROM THOSE “OTHER” CLASSES ASKING TO

COLLABORATE WITH THE MUSIC TEACHERS,

especially those that teach CHOIR?

The sad reality is…I don’t think we always know or will always know.

I know a lack of collaboration can occur because sometimes there’s a disconnect between “CORE” subjects and “Elective” subjects.

Intentionally or Unintentionally, teachers of so-called “CORE” classes think their class in more important and don’t see benefit in a class where you prepare music, therefore no thought of collaboration happens. But I’ve seen this happens with classes that are deemed “Elective” courses just like music is.

Sometimes, there is an expectation of the music class to work on specific types of music so, in this case, it could the music teacher’s reluctance to collaborate because it might interfere with “their plans” or required competition or even the expectation the community has for the required performances of this class.

I think a lot of times, it’s just not thought of.  Collaboration is often thought of within one’s content structure.  Math teachers collaborate with Math teachers. Science teachers collaborate with Science teachers.  Choir teachers collaborate with Choir teachers.  This goes on and on.  It’s there in excess once you hit the middle/junior high school or high school realm.  Everyone is thinking about what “I” need “my” students to do in “my” class.

I have had a dream for a number of years where the bounds of collaboration are broken.  Where a Math teacher can find ways to work with any other subject and make relevance.  I know this happens often with Elementary school teachers, but that is sometimes because that teacher teaches all subjects (at least they do in Utah). My dream would be that classes cross boundaries.  We get out of the mindset of mine and yours and think “OURS”. When the classrooms become OURS, then I truly believe that learning can be pushed past boundaries, past mandatory testing, past what I keep hearing people saying is wrong with public education today. It also means that our contents become AUTHENTIC, RELEVANT and REAL to our students because they won’t see anything other than a COMMUNITY. 

 

I don’t know about you, but if I get the opportunity to find a place where that happens, I’m going to grab it and run all the way there.  It won’t matter what it takes for me to be prepared, but prepared I will be and innovation I will see.