Monday, September 15, 2014

Poster Sessions!

Posters are tedious.  Crazy, super tedious.  I had my first poster session at MMEA this past winter.  I have updated my poster (which reflects the work from my master's thesis) for our Institute's Research Exhibition. To be more exact, the Herberger Institute for Design and Arts  Ph.D. Research Poster Exhibition.  Cool, huh?  All of us will have posters hanging up for several weeks.  That's pretty awesome.  

My poster is not fancy.  It doesn't have lots of cool fonts or color combinations.  I am severely lacking in that creative aspect.   But, I do like clean lines and space.  I am also really bad at visualizing how something will look from a computer screen to a big poster.  I wonder what that would say about my aptitude for creating art?  If you were part of our basement project last summer, you would also know that my forte is not color combinations.  That is all my husband!

Below is my poster.  I know that it isn't huge, but hopefully you can get some of the content.  If not, and you are interested, let me know and I will send you info.  I'm curious if it will bring about any discussion.  Do YOU have questions?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The 85%

Since I have been at ASU I have engaged in some really great conversations.  Conversations that have really challenged the way that I think, the way that I think about teaching, how I teach, what I name it, I have probably thought about it.  I have really enjoyed those conversations as they really force me to be reflective.  I have done tons of reading that has made my brain fold inside out and right side in more times than you can imagine.  But that is why I am down here, to get me out of my comfort zone.

But that is not what this post is about.  This post is about what I get to do every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7:30-9:00.  This is about what I do during that time after already being at school since 8:00 am and my brain is basically shot.  I am playing in the ASU Concert Band.  This band is non-auditioned and is open to all majors.  Most of the band, about 85% of the band is non-music majors.  The rest are made up of music majors-typically freshman/sophomore and a few junior music education majors, and me :)  I could have easily had all these kids as students, which is a bit unnerving, but it is a lot of fun.  I get to make music in a low-stress situation.  I didn't want to audition for a group and I'm not sure that I would have had a whole lot of chance, given the DMA students down here.  And really, why should I take away somebody's position who really needs that chair in the top band to fill out their resume.  This music making opportunity is just for me to continue to make music so that I can feed that part of my musical soul.

This post is dedicated to that 85%.  Why?  Because that 85% is the fruit of our labor as music educators.  My conversations with these students, and why they are still making music, has been more powerful than any conversation that I have had down here.  These students had someone in their lives that pushed them, that encouraged them, that showed them how awesome music making is. These students, as one girl said "just love band and can't imagine not playing my flute."  They have other interests as well, which is why they aren't pursuing music as a degree, but something held their interest.  Wow.  That is powerful.  And humbling.  I'm sitting in a sea of students that could have been my students.  Students that I could have instilled that love of music.  Whew.  That's quite a responsibility.

These students are the majority of our students that we see on a daily/weekly basis.  These are the students who are going to advocate for our programs when their children are in our programs.  These are the students who WE used to be.  That's one point in our music making careers, we were young students, who didn't necessarily know that we were going to go into music, but something about it made us love it to keep going with it.  From elementary school to middle school.  From middle school to high on and so forth.  Music making is part of these students' identity.  It is part of my identity which is why I cannot fathom ever quitting my instrument.  I am here because in addition to being an educator I am also a musician and those two items, for me, go hand in hand.  They don't for everybody, but they do for me.

My whole point of this is that when you look out at your sea of students, don't just look at those students who you think are going to be music majors, because most of them won't.  Look out to those students and think of those as the future University Choir or Band or Orchestra members.  Instill a love for music making that they will be able to continue beyond their time with you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Worlds Colliding

While I started school this past June (12 credits in 6 weeks-I would NOT recommend that to anyone), tomorrow marks the real beginning, in my mind, of my doctoral work. I'm going through a bit of an identity crisis!  For 11 years I identified myself as a middle school band teacher.  I still consider myself a middle school band teacher, but tomorrow I will add graduate student, teaching assistant and university supervisor into the mix.  Can you see where I'm conflicted?

For 11 years I anticipated the beginning of the new year, usually beginning about two weeks after school got out in June.  I would eagerly spend hours going through new music, looking at the upcoming instrumentation, pouring over websites for new lesson plan ideas, making sure everything was just right.  I got excited about meeting new students and seeing old familiar faces.  Those 8th graders, who I met as 6th graders were several inches taller and that much closer to being young men and women.  The excitement of the first bell and helping kids find their classes, the excitement and hugs from kids on the first day...the excitement of LEARNING.  I'm starting to get a bit teary eyed just thinking about it!  I'm going to miss that...a lot. I'm going to miss learning alongside my students and watching those light bulbs go off-the "a-ha" moments.  I'm going to miss those moments of playing through a piece for the first time, crashing and bombing all over the place, but watching the kids really dig in and being excited to work hard for that piece. I'm going to miss the lessons, where I really get to know my students...where it was really more about the relationship building than the music making.  I'm going to miss the long hours (to a degree) in preparation for our Fine Arts Night and our jazz festivals and solo and ensemble and audition preparations.....I'm going to miss everything that involves the kids.

But now, tomorrow I get to share my excitement with undergraduates who are hoping to become teachers.  This is exciting.  I hope they can see what a wonderful thing it is to be a teacher.  That it isn't just about the music.  That it is about the kids and that from the relationships with our students we can make beautiful music.  I hope to share with my undergrads that it is ok to have high expectations of middle school kiddos, that they ARE capable, we just need to ask....not tell.  I hope to share this with my teacher candidates (student teachers) as I go out and observe them in the classroom.  It is my hope that these young teachers will be able to have the same experiences as I have had in the classroom.  Have these same experiences and know that it does take some time.  That the first year of teaching might be miserable.  That there will be times in your career that you wonder if you what you are doing is the right job, or should you just move on because you just can't seem to do anything right.  That you will have those students....those students that for whatever reason drive you crazy and get under your skin.  But then you make a connection with them and something changes.  That for every harsh email that you receive there are 20 or 30 parents out there singing your praises.  That you do have to develop a thick skin because these kids may not be coming from such a warm household.  That you might be the only smile they receive during the day.  That it IS OK to give a kiddo a hug (around the shoulders and to the side, not full on) because they might need that from you.  That it is ok to be human and share your emotions with your students....the list can go on and on.

My job as a student will be to make myself better.  All of this is to make myself better.  I feel selfish for leaving my life behind and focusing on myself.  I have been told that this is ok.  In the long run, it will be ok, because then I will be making my students better.  And that is really what all of this is about.  Making a better teacher for my ultimately, it really isn't that selfish, because ultimately I am doing this for all of my students.

So, to all of my fellow public school educators who are either in the classroom or preparing their classrooms, have a great year.  Good luck and don't be afraid to try something new.  It it flops, that's ok!  Ask questions, dig deeper.  For my fellow students, ask questions and dig deeper.  It is the only way that we can learn something.  Try new things and don't be afraid of the unknown. It is usually pretty exciting.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shifting Gears

So one of my new adventures is that I will be supervising student teachers, or "teacher candidates" as they are called here at ASU.  This is actually really new to me because I never had the opportunity to work with student teachers in my classroom.  I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I have not ever been a cooperating teacher.  At any rate, I am really looking forward to watching these young people grow into full fledged music educators.  Which leads me to.....

"Watching these young people grow...."  I have really struggled the past two weeks knowing that I won't be walking through my school's front doors and feeling the excitement of the first day of school.  Seeing students that I have known and made some real connections with.  Making music with my students-boy, that is going to be a tough one this year.  However, I am still going to be teaching, but in a different capacity.  Part of me is scared because I have only ever really taught middle school.  I am sure much of what I use in the middle school classroom can be used with undergraduates.  Let's be honest, there isn't that big of a difference between an 8th grade boy and a 19 year old boy :)  BUT, I think what I am going to miss most is making musical connections with my kids.....watching them grow.

Another duty that I have at my time at ASU will be teacher assisting a class.  As of right now, I *think* it is a practicum sort of class, where students start to bring together everything that they have learned in undergrad and apply it to their teaching.  From my understanding it is their last set of practicum classes before student teaching, so they are playing secondary instruments, working on conducting, working on lesson plans, reading scores, rehearsal techniques, etc.  I am very excited about this class as I think I can offer up some real experience on these topics.  It will be fun to watch these students grow and mature into pre-service teachers.

"Watching these young people grow..." and dream.  Dream big.  We all need big dreams and I am living one right now.  I hope that I can share my passion with these young people and inspire them to dream big.

I am still going through the same thoughts that I would at the beginning of the school year: what does my office need, what is my schedule, how many students will I have, when is lunch (so important!), does my office have a coffee maker (more important than lunch), where are my students from, will they like me, what can I do to build relationships from the beginning....etc.  The only thing missing is "what music are we playing"....which I am bumming about.

I sent my first email to my teacher candidates and told them what a great profession they are entering.  It's hard-physically and emotionally.  I told them to make sure they get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and take some "me" time-all things that I need to remind myself to do on a constant basis.  I AM excited for these young adults and I am very excited to watch them grow.  As educators that is one of the biggest thrills, watching them grow and then watching them take the reigns and we get to let go.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A new post!! And 1640 miles away from Minnesota!!

WOW....what happened??  I will tell you...SO.MUCH.  My last post was rather therapeutic!  Well, at least to me it was.  Last year was crazy emotional. I had such a great group of 8th and 7th graders and I just could not connect with my 6th graders.  It still drives me crazy and it is now July.  I will never know what happened and who knows that when/if I return will I be able to connect with them as 8th graders.  Which leads me to....

NOW.  Where the heck am I?!  I am finishing my first six weeks as a doctoral student at Arizona State University!!  Talk about a switch of pace, eh?  No kidding!  I finished school June 6th and flew down here June 8th and started class June 9th!!  12 credits later....I'm surviving!  I haven't had much time to reflect on the past month until this week.  I was rocking three classes a day until last week, so now I have a bit more free time.

Back to the school year.  Telling my 7th graders that I was not going to be their 8th grade band teacher was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  I had been thinking about it for months.  I was SO nervous telling them-I was shaking.  They were kids were just awesome.  I love them so much for being so mature!!  After I told them (and I was crying), they started applauding for me....they are proud of me.  "Mrs. Minette, this is an opportunity you can't pass up".  WOW.  Speechless.  I was floored by their compassion and their understanding.  I still tear up every time I think about it.  Lots of hugs, lots of tears, lots of personal emails....this was one special group of kids.  They are all special, but you know when you get that one class.....yeah, that was this class.

They have a great sub for this upcoming year.  I was fortunate to be a part of the hiring committee and the candidates got to work with the kids.  The kids asked amazing questions that were a reflection of what we do in class; "how are you going to challenge us to be better musicians"...their questions, not mine.  I'm going to miss this kids a ton, but I feel really good about their sub and they (the kiddos) were VERY excited when they found out who their teacher will be for next year.  But that still doesn't mean I am not going to miss being with them.  They were demanding...they loved to be challenged, they thrived on being challenged.  And it was probably the BEST percussion section I have ever had.  And every.single. clarinet player was cranking out D's above the staff....they just wanted to do it.  Nobody ever told them that it was hard.  They just did it.

So here I am!!  ASU.  This blog (I'm really going to try to maintain it) is going to still be about education and learning, but possibly with a more academic twist.  I'm not sure.  I'm not sure that I am ready to be done teaching at the middle level yet, but I know I need to be here doing this.  Like I told my kids, sometimes we don't have a direct path to our goal, so we take the scenic routes.  I love scenic routes.  They are the source of new adventures, so I am taking this adventure head on!!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year....and a much needed blog post!

So it's been a while.  I haven't forgotten you at all.  You have been on my mind for the past three months, but a lot has been going on.  Many good things, but many struggles as well.  Too often the past few months I have found myself doubting everything that I do as a professional and this has been beyond frustrating.  I am not one to make New Year's Resolutions, but today-with the assistance of my amazingly patient husband, I have decided that I must take control of how I feel, that only I am in charge of my emotions and that I cannot let others take that away from me.  I apologize for my ambiguity on this but out of professionalism I must truly keep much of this to myself.  If you are dying to know, please ask via email. 

At any rate, our job is hard.  So many times I feel that I am being pulled in 1,000 directions that at the end of the day I am not concerned about my own mental health but rather whatif I would have taught something a different way, would more students have done better on a particular assignment.  My husband has been working with me to really incorporate "me" time.  Even if that means watching an episode of whatever series we are working through on Netflix and just lounging for 43 minutes, or if it is going to the gym, I must remove myself from my thoughts that overflow my brain of "whatifs".  I seem to be plagued by the same minions that plagued one of my favorite poets, Shel Silverstein: 

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I'm dumb ins school?
Whatif they've closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there's poison in my cup?
Whatif I start
to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don't grow talle?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won't bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

Kinda dark, isn't it?  I know that I am not the only person that suffers from the Whatifs.  The only difference between me and Mr. Silverstein is that my Whatifs happen ALL DAY.  Non-stop....and it's more like "Whatif my students don't like me", "Whatif another student drops band". "What if I can't find a decent sub for next year"(more on that later)....just non.stop.whatifs.
So...what to do?  I'm not sure.  Just be kinder to myself and have confidence in my decisions and my 11 years of teaching, plus a master's degree (which means only so much) that what I am doing is right and good.  

Onward....I will be posting in the next few weeks about a cool project that I am working on that will be coinciding with the winter Olympics.  I'm positive that I am not the only band director out there that will be doing some sort of band Olympics, so if you have some ideas, shoot them my way!!