Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Personal Reflections on Teaching

In my preparations for the upcoming semester I did some reflecting and updated my personal teaching statement.  Here it is:

As a life-long learner, my basic philosophy of teaching has evolved over the years‚ and will continue to do so.  I have come to believe that teaching is more than the mere transfer of information from teacher to student.  As a teacher, I aim to instill the mindset of ongoing learning in my students to assist them in reaching their full potential.

Conceptually, my style of teaching is based upon authority, but not authoritarianism.  I take great pride in properly training the next generation in the specific skills of my craft. I treat my students as up-and-coming professionals, making my expectations known, and upholding high standards.  I aim to equip my protégés with knowledge of the fundamental principles and concepts that guide our work, while modifying my teaching strategies to meet the needs of each student. Students are encouraged to identify specific, manageable goals, and then determine the necessary incremental steps required to accomplish each goal.     

As an active and current practitioner, I am able to bring real-world, holistic scenarios and experiences to the classroom.  For example:
1.     Drawing student ensembles into the creative process by having them sight-read and rehearse first drafts of my new composition and arrangements before they are presented to professional ensembles.
2.     Enticing famous jazz artists to come to campus, rehearse their music, and perform with my students (Rob McConnell, Jim McNeely, Rufus Reid, among others).
3.     Assigning jazz arranging projects using the instrumentations of the professional ensembles I lead, with the understanding that if their work is completed at a professional level, it will be performed by the ensemble.
4.     Organizing an annual concert series, featuring selected students with faculty members, as well as facilitating performances by student-led ensembles.

My frequent engagement in cross-disciplinary collaboration illustrates my conviction that pooling creative and fiscal resources is worthwhile and beneficial.  In addition to my own collaborations with colleagues in art, drama, dance and music, I have instigated numerous projects directly involving students.  Jazz arranging students wrote the music for a children’s choir CD, ensembles prepared performance pieces with dance students, and orchestral string players were united with the jazz ensemble to form a studio orchestra for which new music was commissioned.  In the near future, I aim to broaden the scope of my collaborations, by integrating music with the liberal arts.

I have found that my ongoing professional development as a musician (lessons, courses, etc.) has a direct correlation to my effectiveness as a teacher.  In addition to expanding my cache of skills and resources, I am reminded of the challenges and obstacles in learning, thereby making me a more insightful, patient and thoughtful teacher.  My resolve to coherently explain and break down how and what I do is intensified.

Allowing my students to learn from the real-world scenarios I create is fundamental to my teaching philosophy.  My goal is to equip my students to meet their full potential.  It is fulfilling to see my current students meeting their musical goals. It brings me joy to see my former students working successfully in a variety of musical capacities.