Are Teachers hindering Learning?

Now before you write this all off as somebody just trying to throw a random thought into the internet ether, sit down and put on your critical thinking cap and stay awhile. This post is going to be ripe with rash generalizations, and will pertain to only the state in which I grew up and reside in. For that information visit this page. Overall, this is one persons point of view.

Let me start by saying Mr. Jesse Rathgeber is a Doctoral Candidate at Arizona State University in Music Education and recently launched the hashtag #whatifmusiced . The response has been quite interesting and varied which is found here. I participated and got some very positive responses back from peers and colleagues. I then began to wonder how could I apply what we were discussing inside the classroom.

At my student teaching with a middle school group we this past Thursday attended an AZ ABODA Middle School Festival. We took two ensembles and achieved/earn/were awarded an Excellent for both, or a II, or as the students saw it a B. Even though my mentor and I were very happy with the rating that we received, the students were uneasy, almost as if they had expected to earn a Superior, I, A. This I began to find interesting as it was never discussed in class that we HAD to earn a certain score. My mentor and I had discussed how the rating system works, but never laid down that we expected to earn a blank score/rating. I then proposed that we have the students listen to the tapes to hear what they judges had to say as they’re all fine educators in their own right, but then reflect on the following things.

What comment can I apply tomorrow?

What are my thoughts/feelings about Judge __’s comments and why?

What are 3 comments I would give us as a judge?

The responses that we received were that of a mixed quality. Some students left areas blank (expected), some did not explain their thoughts i.e. I liked Judge  #1 because they were nice (again expected) but there was a larger majority of students who had a very high level of things to say such as: We need to blend better not as a section but as a family, or as a voice such as low winds’. (Not expected). Yes, I am ashamed to say that from my middle school students I was not prepared to have such a crafted and sophisticated answer. This has begun to nag at me, I should expect this kind of answer from students, I created this assignment, I wanted them to make these connections, yet when it is made I am shocked. Why? Should I not expect that all students are able to understand these concepts at some form or level?

As I have given some thought I began to realize, I was hindering these students. I had created an environment where students were unable to go out and then try to grasp and apply these concepts. Just because they are not at the ‘high school’ level, should we teach music differently, and then attempt to break old habits 3-4 years down the line? I personally learned how to tongue incorrectly as a beginner because that was ‘easier’. it then took till my Junior year of College, yes College to finally break down that wall and create a more approachable tonguing style. It took almost 9 years, almost a decade of me playing to finally get out of a habit formed in year 1.

This is something that I have noticed in the area that I have/am in. We teach to different levels and expect students to just know all the information right off the bat to be applied as we need it to be. But if we are busy compensating for those who were not to our liking, even if were created that issue, are we giving the best opportunity for all of our students? Should we not allow for students to just be taught the concepts from the start? Just because we think that they are ‘unable’ to understand the concept they may surprise us.

I personally believe that as a teacher I should teach to give the experience I received. I shouldn’t hold them back just because I am not confident they can handle the full explanation. When would they learn? This could be the one and only chance to explain it, why would we avoid that? If we act as the holders of knowledge rather than transporters, how would we ever learn? We need to adapt with the times and share as much as we can, look for knowledge and then pass it on. Treat everyone equally. Mature or not, students may surprise us with what they can learn.

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