My core values—as I am currently able to identify them—are health, growth, and understanding. These interrelated values illuminate choices I make, frustrations I develop, and the path I pursue. The reason I am deeply fulfilled teaching violin is because the role is situated at the intersection of health, growth and understanding. Health, the movement from unnatural to natural, approaches the most unblocked state of self-expression. I believe our lessons, practice, and performance can be a form of healing. Growth is the direct result of a daily commitment to practice with an instrument, and exactly what I hope to inspire in my students. Understanding is the driving force behind my desire to understand the unique nature of each student. I also can’t seem to tame the continual researching, questioning, experimenting, and analyzing that inform my teaching. Health, growth, and understanding began to emerge as my core values early this year, but in string pedagogy – the graduate course I took with Dr. Laurie Scott – I came to realize why I feel compelled to teach music. An environment for introspection, collaboration, and discovery, spring pedagogy has molded a perspective on teaching, perhaps life, which will guide the trajectory of my career.
Of all courses taken at the Butler School of Music, MUS 393 has proven most formative for me. I appreciate not only the direction string pedagogy as pointed me toward in my professional life, but the design of the course to do just that. The craftsmanship with which Dr. Scott shaped our course sequence, reflective of a masterfully taught Suzuki group class, is a model I believe every classroom should reflect. Cognizant of the individuals on her roster, she adapted the class to accommodate a diversity of skill levels, professional paths, and interests. The artful integration of Michelle and Allen, two band educators, into all hands on work on stringed instruments was inspiring. The framing of information in contexts for college instruction specific to Alex, public school programs specific to Allen and Michelle, and private and group instruction specific to me made the class digestible and relevant. Furthermore, concise, regular, and thought provoking feedback aided my writing and lesson planning process. Now as I read chapters I habitually take note of my reflections. Similarly, as I plan lessons with Jenny and EO T&R I think back to my last lesson observation review wondering which tangible improvements I can achieve. The invitation to lead class and be vulnerable in our classroom required preparation, courage, and confidence I can now rely on even among my graduate student peers. Finally, in addition to the guidance of string pedagogy I am also indebted to the first few steps in the direction the class has prodded me to take. A video portfolio of my teaching, a complete tagged and labeled collection of all teaching handouts, the analysis of seven different method books, complete and researched task analyses of vibrato and sight reading, several self designed handouts, and countless reflections (1, 2, 3, 4) I have converted to blog posts are just a few examples of the academic work directly applicable to my work.
One of those reflections-turned-blog-post features the distinction I make in practice time allotted to exploration versus repetition. Pedagogy this semester has been a long series of experiments, resulting in many opportunities for data collection. Analysis of masterful teaching through observation, the breaking down of your many stepwise sequences, the generous sharing of my classmates experiences, and the careful documentation and review of my own teaching have led to a plethora of insights ready to be put into action. I have glimpsed the short, hopeful buds of success peeking out from the dirt with potential for growth. So it is the time allotted to repetition I now crave. I hope to teach many sequences to many students over and over again in order to develop an intuitive understanding of each skill and each student’s need. And beyond repetition, I yearn for an opportunity to return time and time again to the sort of exploratory environment fostered in string pedagogy this semester. This cycle, experimentation then repetition then experimentation again, along with my values of health, growth, and understanding will guide me on a career journey I am excited to have already begun. I am thankful for a great semester!