When I started teaching harp, I wrote a mission statement. It sounds like a small thing, but it was actually one of the most important steps I ever took to develop my teaching. Why?
– It was highly self-motivating.
– After I had articulated my values as a teacher, I began to have a more positive and holistic attitude in my small, daily interactions with students. I think that I’d shoved my noble aspirations into a mythical future of grandiose dreams … which enabled me to not act on them. After writing down my values, I somehow found myself doing tiny concrete actions, in the present, in alignment with my noble intentions. Which, of course, is how we make our castles in the sky real!
– It speeded up my day-to-day teaching decisions ( … when I remembered to consult it!! )
– When I translated my values into class activities, e.g. turning off the lights and giving students finger torches at Halloween, it produced beautiful experiences.
– It ensured the parents of my students had a clear understanding of what to expect from my teaching.
– It gave me a back-up if there was a disagreement with any element of my teaching. I could refer to the mission statement (which I gave to each parent at the start of lessons) and tell them I wouldn’t be deviating from it. This seems to be curiously powerful; to date, no parent has continued their argument after this referral.
– It gave my students’ parents an impression of professionalism.
… So how did I come up with it?
1. My personal experience: I reflected on how I’d been taught since I’d been born, what teaching I found positive and effective or not. I thought which elements of teaching I did, and did not, want to continue in my own practice.
2. My ‘ideal bubble’: I reflected on the ideal outcomes I wanted for my students.
3. The research: I reflected on what I’d learned in my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees about effective teaching, and accordingly what I would like to include in / exclude from my teaching practice.
4. My own professional experience: I thought about skills I thought my students would find useful if they were to build a career as a musician.
5. I selected what was most important to me to transmit to my students, and put those values in order of priority.
… So after all that, here it is.
My aims as a music teacher are:
- To promote my students’ health by teaching them to express themselves in a safe manner that brings joy and/or solace to themselves.
- To augment my students’ self-esteem by giving them the tools they need to become competent musical performers.
- to increase my students’ quality of life by giving them motivation, space and skills to be creative.
- to enrich my students’ social interactions by creating opportunities for them to play music with other people.
- to deepen my students’ daily experience by inducing them to engage with their aural environment.
- To inspire my students with a deep appreciation of their rich cultural heritage.
All of these aims will take place in an environment that is trí Ghaeilge or positive and inclusive of Gaeilge…and that is FUN!!
… And, dear reader, now it’s your turn!! You might find the process outlined above helpful as a jump-off point, or you might find this resource from the University of Minnesota useful. Let me know what you come up with, and how you get on!