Music, U of S - 2001
In the past few years, as I have actively practiced the craft of teaching, several major themes have arisen. The emerging themes of my teaching include: mentoring, inspiring, accessibility, skill building, and clarity.
Viewing teaching as mentoring has become my preferred stance when considering my relationship to my students. I am accustomed to teaching in a close-knit department where students and instructors see each other in many different contexts on an almost daily basis: in the classroom, in rehearsal, on stage, and at local music performances. I am keenly aware that my relationship with my students does not exist solely (or even primarily) in the classroom. I consider any type of encounter my students and I may have as a possible learning situation. My weekly office hours, for example, have become a busy time of discussion, paper revisions, and library visits for my students and I.
Inspiring those I teach is a priority in my classroom. For me, teaching is sometimes like being a tour guide of my discipline. I take the students through the material, knowing all the while that I cannot possibly introduce them to every nook and cranny. I endeavour to present to them the highlights, particularly the more fascinating ones, in hopes that their imaginations will be sparked and they will be inspired to continue the journey on their own.
The issue of accessibility is pertinent to several different aspects of my teaching. I aim to be accessible to my students inside the classroom, in the sense that I always try to connect with them, no matter what level they are at, by explaining concepts and information as clearly and simply as possible. Outside the classroom, I am accessible to students not only during office hours, but most of the working day. It is important to me that the students see me taking part in various departmental and university-wide activities and see that I am involved in campus life beyond their classroom. The issue of accessibility is also a key concern in my attempt to stay up to date with technology in the presentation of a course. I make a point of speaking with students informally to discover what types of technologies they have available to them and proceed from that point. I have found, on several occasions, that the use of technology can make materials and projects inaccessible to students, rather than making them more accessible.
Teaching skills, rather than simply content, is important to me. I try to incorporate a variety of skill-building in assignments and daily classes. The content of my courses addresses music history, and in order for the students to be successful, a variety of skills are needed to engage the material: writing skills, reading skills, critical thinking/reasoning skills, listening skills, technology skills, and oral presentation/speaking/performing skills. To successfully help students to learn about learning music history, they need strong skills in many different areas. Marrying content and skill-building has also helped me to create connections and relevance for students.
Finally, clarity is a theme woven through all of my teaching interactions. I strive to be clear in my expectations of students, in my grading procedures, and in my presentation of materials. I prefer to simplify concepts in order to enable my students to approach them; and then later uncover concepts in more detail.