Friday, July 25, 2008

Week Five and Beyond

My gosh, over already? It seems like we were just getting into the swing of things! The concert went very well; my beginning students nailed their instrument features (way to go, guys!!) and stayed together on the piece we weren't altogether prepared for. My intermediate kids did just fine, the timpani player on the piece I conducted got to play on real, full-size timpani instead of some ancient roto-toms, dynamics were pretty decent, and despite all the hubbub of people moving mid-camp, we did well. My advanced band really gave me a pleasant surprise on a tune called "Jamaican Holiday" by schooling a long-standing trouble spot and doing some killer dynamics; I'm nominating us for best section on the planet. :)

What I did well

I think I got a much better hold on finding that state of "approachable teacher" rather than a teacher you don't dare go near or person you view more as a buddy and less of an authority. I didn't win over all my students (how often does that really happen, anyway?) but I certainly got many more smiles and many fewer scowls.

What I didn't do well

I definitely didn't get as far as I would have liked with my beginners. Neither my trumpets nor my trombones got very far in Essential Elements (we had to skip forward to the concert pieces on p. 12), and while it would be easy to say that a third to a half of each group came in not knowing how to read music (so they claimed - I could have sworn they learned this in classroom music), I'd still say that it's largely my fault for not having gotten them through to that point.

What I'll do better next time

Well first and most important, I have to make some new secret handshakes; the low brass handshake is apparently on TV now! No, really first and most importantly, I need to get comfortable with the idea of setting goals not for where my students are, but above where they are. I need to get comfortable with the idea that my kids might have to get severely left in the dust before they kick it into high gear. I need to get comfortable with giving them more than they can handle at once just to show them that they really can handle all of it at once if they try. That ended up happening when they got three band pieces at the same time; I would rather it have happened during the first week or two.

I also need to work more on note recognition in class. I tried this year handing out flashcards with the notes, note names, and fingerings on them so that they could work on that at home and we could work on other stuff in class, but looking back, I realize I've got it backwards. What we did in class was the fun stuff, and what I was asking them to do at home was the mundane stuff; big surprise there that they didn't work on the boring stuff at home. During the summer. Where it competes with video games. And baseball. I seem to remember someone warning me about this...

I think I'll keep the flashcards, though; some kids really did benefit from them, and it's nice to be able to have that option for silent "practice," like in a car with teenage siblings or at a cabin over 4th of July weekend. It's not much, but it's something.

In other news, paychecks have finally started to come in the very week camp is ending!! No, that's okay, district, my car runs on happy thoughts, not on gasoline; I can still get to work. At least it means my bank account is back above single-digits and that I can buy things like food. In that time after graduation and before the first paycheck, I'd better find something that pays weekly. What did you real teachers do in that dead time?

Also, I got about $90 worth of music in the mail for my upcoming junior recital. I'm giving it a "trombone and organ" theme, so it'll be held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead just north of campus if anyone wants to come listen. The organ there is quite an instrument and a small giant at that, so if anything, come for that. I'm going to see if I can balance with its "tutti" on one of the pieces.

Anyhoo, more to come later. Take care,

1 comment:

stengel99 said...

Hi Greg,
Way to go. I can relate to what you wrote about what you'll do better next time and reaching more students. Most groups, especially at the beginning level, will have some really successful students, some who just don't get it, and a whole bunch in between. It's been reassuring for me as the years go by to see that this is true for even veteran music teachers as well as classroom teachers. The art of the balancing act comes in giving some appropriate instruction to the high performers and the low performers, and spend the bulk of your energy on the 80% in between.
Keep it up!