Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Semester Five of a Music Ed Student: Part II

In the past, I've had the nasty habit of holding this pattern : waste time in the beginning of the year and become overloaded with stress towards the end. This year was the end of that! Or, rather, the beginning of the end of that - this habit, like any, will take time to develop.

So what did I do to cut my stress? First, I got as far ahead as I could in all my classes and other responsibilities right off the bat. This was a huge blessing with my Counterpoint class; it's known for being a real beast and for people pulling long, difficult hours on their projects, but in reality, we were given plenty of time to do everything so long as we don't start the day before it's due. (Funny how that works out, isn't it?) My main goal was to finish, or at least get the best head of steam I could, on everything on the day it's assigned. All too often, the average college kid will begin something the day (or night) before it's due, so since it can be done in a day, I put it on the front end and thus spread out, minimized, and managed my stress, avoiding distress and maintaining eustress. Basic when it comes down to it, yes, but it really works.

Secondly, I took some advice and avoided the "teacher's lounge." In the music building, there are a set of flesh magnets called "the couches" that are kind of like the monkey bars: it's where all the cool kids hang out. It also happens to be the best place to get swamped in gossip and the worst place to be productive. Nothing against the couch-dwellers themselves, cool people in their own right, but when I stopped spending time there, I was more productive and more positive. More out of the social loop? Sure, but gossip won't help you with finals.

Finally, I dedicated time for sleep. I set hard limits for when I would make myself turn in, hard limits for how early I could get up, and tried to get no fewer than 7 hours of sleep. Many college students would wonder at the potential for so much sleep every night, but I found that if I made that a priority, other things just worked out around it. The flaw in this plan was that a series of concerts and tours put the people in both band and orchestra about two weeks behind in our classes going into finals, so I spent some late nights getting work done, but boy, could I tell the difference! I don't know how I had gotten this far on such little sleep, because seeing the difference back-to-back really made it that much more obvious that good sleep can be just as important as good study. The trick is finding the balance. (As an aside, I tried working my butt off for six days and doing squat-nothing on Sunday aside from Church, and I found that that's not enough time off; my body can't unwind that much in a healthy way in only a day. A lighter load overall really does the trick, plus an easy-going-but-still-productive Saturday to complement the God-family-and-friend-oriented Sunday)

For those in or just entering college : your mileage may vary, but I hope this helps.
For those of you working types, I'm curious : does reading this prove to you that 18-to-20-somethings are more alike or different than "in the day?"

Thanks, and a belated happy new year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Semester Five of a Music Ed Student: Part I

This by far was my strangest semester - Three of my classes took the last month off, and I had five juries. Let me explain:

Juries first: my major and minor instruments each had one (trombone and organ, respectively), I had a jury for my percussion methods class, I accompanied someone's jury, and I had a conducting final. (sure, these last two might not really count as juries, but the conducting was for a grade, and the accompaniment was during an official jury time)

Now, the three classes that took the month off were two education classes and a counterpoint class. For Counterpoint, the month was to be spend composing a two-part Bach invention that followed a long set of guidelines and, naturally, followed all the rules of eighteenth-century counterpoint.

The ed classes, however, require some explanation to make my next point.
  • Students were to log all their clinical hours during the semester, and the scheduling would have to work around their already-existing classes
  • The instrumental methods course was one block long. That means that everything about how to teach band and orchestra and jazz band, marching band, and everything else, in half a semester.
The new system proved to be much more accommodating to the needs of your average college student:
  • Half of the clinical hours are done in the summer; nonetheless, most people I talked to actually logged two to three times the required ammount for various reasons.
  • For the remaining hours, the last month is set aside not only to give the students some breathing room in their schedule, but also to go more in-depth with planning for and following through with instruction
  • The instrumental methods course was expanded to a whole semester, to allow not only for that last month, but also to spend more time on everything, to talk about music ed advocacy and to write a personal philosophy of music education, and to give more time for all this information to sink in.
The moral to all of this, for all the teacher educators and all those in charge of scheduling, is that the best gift you can give a music ed student is the gift of time. This post is dedicated to the people responsible for making this transition possible; my hat goes off to you.

A restful break to everyone, and best wishes for this next semester,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Whether you don't yet know or you just need a reminder, I refer you all to a short kid with a blue blanket.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May your travels be safe and your time blessed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fall Semester Recap

Wow, this has been a wild ride. The semester has flown by, and possibly been one of the busiest yet.

Some notable aspects of these past 4 months that I hope to cover in posts to come:
  • Out of all my classes, I didn't have any finals.
  • Out of all my classes, three of them took the last month off to work on large projects
  • I had five juries
  • I wore a unit plan on composing electronic music that I hope to revise and see used with a friend who is teaching in the Fargo public schools
  • I changed how I work
  • I stopped sitting at "The Couches"
  • I have become a better recording engineer
What I'm planning on doing this Christmas break:
  • Do lots of cross-country skiing
  • Spend time with my brothers
  • Write music
  • Blog
  • RELAX!!!
And I have these coming at me this next semester:
  • Becoming a better studio engineer
  • My first academic course (in the traditional sense) since perhaps freshman year
  • A semester of percussion lessons to reinforce and expand what I learned in my percussion methods class
  • The last semester for many of my very good friends; I'll miss them more than I can say
In the mean time, it's time to get a late lunch and do some of that relaxing I was talking about.
Merry Christmas,