January - 2005
Tests change things!
by Ted Totorica, President, Idaho ACDA

Tests, tests and more tests! I cannot believe the changes that have taken place in education over the last five years. In our zeal to achieve and be able to compare well with others across the nation, not to mention the whole no child left behind stuff; have we forgotten what it is to truly love learning? I am now giving end of course exams to all of my choirs and am having my scores published across the district. My scores and those of my peers are posted for all to see and compare. In many ways, this can be a fantastic motivator. I am finding however, that it is becoming more of a demotivator (if that is a word…) I am finding myself working harder and faster at a job that was already taxing enough.

In my first years as an educator, I learned how to discipline. In the next few years, I honed my musical and motivational skills. Then came my “Responsibility to the Art” phase. For the past few years, I have been teaching theory, history and sight reading with an intense passion. I now find myself at a crossroads in my teaching career. I know there must be a next phase but where do I go? Do I make my choral classes more fun and deemphasize the pesky “learning fundamentals?” Do I start assigning four part chorales weekly? Do I focus on Musical Theatre? Should each of my students be turning in Sibelous computerized music assignments on a weekly basis? Where does the state solo competition fit into my program? Do All State and All Northwest honors choruses offer what I believe to be important for my students? Have I purchased music from a new composer lately? Is it important that my program be balanced in ALL musical eras?

My goal is not to depress or insult you, but to give you insight into some of the questions that currently absorb me. I believe that we all grapple with these issues and that we each must find our own equilibrium. I believe that ACDA sponsored events are great places to discuss just these kind of philosophical examinations and provide an excellent forum to exchange ideas. These events can extend help to those who are searching and rejuvenate those who are coasting. We have a fantastic organization, and I encourage all members, no matter their place in their career journey, to take advantage of its offerings. As I finish my term as Idaho ACDA President, I believe that what we do for our choir members is exceedingly important. I believe that our art form is truly unique. Mostly, I believe that we choir teachers are truly the lucky ones for having the opportunity to share the gift of music with those who might otherwise never learn to appreciate its beauty.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"My goal is not to depress or insult you, but to give you insight into some of the questions that currently absorb me. I believe that we all grapple with these issues and that we each must find our own equilibrium."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rest and renewal: reflections and questions

by Leslie Guelker-Cone, President, Washington ACDA


For the first time in 25 years of teaching, I am presently on sabbatical from my university position and find myself luxuriating in an amazing amount of unstructured time—time to think, to read, to research, to write; time to ponder what comes next, to reexamine what I believe and to focus on what I want to accomplish as a teacher and conductor in the years to come. Friends tell me I look more relaxed than they’ve ever seen me (which makes me wonder just how stressed out I must have appeared in the past!) and I find myself breathing more slowly and calmly than usual and taking some time to “stop and smell the roses” both professionally and personally.

This has truly been life changing for me and I’ve already begun to ponder how this experience might shape my work and life when I resume teaching in the fall and find myself caught up in the daily craziness that is the life of a choral conductor. Though I don’t have any hard and fast answers yet, here are a few questions I’ve asked already.

1) How can I take care of me?—As teachers, we spend so much of our time focusing other people that we often find ourselves coming to the end of yet another school year overly tired, drained, and with nothing left to give, either to ourselves, our students, or our significant others. If we don’t find ways to recharge our own batteries, we won’t have anything to offer the other people in our lives. Taking care of myself on sabbatical has included starting each morning with a long soak in the hot tub with a cup of coffee, pondering the world and my day—what luxury! Though time is far more scarce in the midst of teaching, I intend to make it a point to set aside even a small amount of time each day for at least one thing that renews me— a chapter of an engaging novel, a hot bath, a brisk walk, a talk with a supportive friend.

2) What else can I learn?—Once we leave school for the last time and find ourselves out of the routine of structured learning, we often forget that the best teachers are those who are continually learning and growing. With the luxury of sabbatical, I have had significant time to read and absorb new ideas and philosophies, to ponder new thoughts and struggle with challenging concepts. When I return to school in the fall, I intend to read and ponder something each day that challenges and stretches me (either music-related or on a completely different topic—art, philosophy, history, etc.) and reminds me that I need to continue to be a student if I am to be my best as a teacher.

3) How can I really be there?—In the rush to meet daily deadlines, we are often only marginally present in our conversations with people, sometimes with only half a mind on the interactions. We multitask wildly in order to get our many tasks completed—answering the phone while we check our email and listen to a recording of a new piece we’re preparing, for example—and not really paying much attention to anything. Sabbatical, with its more relaxed flow, has presented me with the unique opportunity to really be “in the moment” with people and activities and to concentrate fully on what I’m doing or who I’m talking with. When I return to school in the fall, I intend to slow down a bit and do only one task at a time; to be present in it and focused on it, to really be there with my full brain and heart.

4) What do I believe and how do I show it?—The pressures and constraints of daily teaching often keep us from taking the time to reexamine our own teaching philosophies and to reorder our priorities over time. What do we believe about teaching? What do we believe about music? What do we want our singers to know about music and people and life? How can we incorporate what we believe is essential into our daily teaching? Sabbatical has given me the priceless opportunity to reexamine what I believe about what I do and what I want to share with my students. When I begin teaching again, I intend to take a few minutes at the beginning of each day (maybe in the shower or on my way to school) to remind myself what I believe to be really important and to be sure that my rehearsal plans are reinforcing those beliefs.

While sometimes it seems impossible to take even a few minutes away from our endless tasks and responsibilities for this kind of reflection, renewal, and wholehearted presence, I would suggest that we must make the time in order to be fully functioning and complete human beings and teachers with something significant to share with our singers and the world.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"While sometimes it seems impossible to take even a few minutes away from our endless tasks and responsibilities for this kind of reflection, renewal, and wholehearted presence, I would suggest that we must make the time in order to be fully functioning and complete human beings and teachers with something significant to share with our singers and the world."

 

 

 

 

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In other words...

by Diane Hultgren, President, Wyoming ACDA


I envy people, poets actually, who seem to easily speak in the language of metaphors, bringing images to life to language-poor people like myself. It seems so simple and obvious, but of what value is this poetic language to the practical man? Why should the practical man listen to these thought-provoking, imagery laden words?

Have you ever found yourself in front of an audience (think school boards and those practical businessmen) trying to explain the importance of the aesthetics of the arts in educating our children? Have you ever found yourself dismissed out of hand because you are making an ‘emotional plea’ and this is a practical matter?

Perhaps the words of John Giardi, Poetry Editor of the Saturday Review, speaking to a group of businessmen, considered tough, practical, bottom-line people, will be of help. (Thank you to Elliot Eisner, Stanford University, for sharing this in one of his speeches on the contributions of the arts to education.)

Gentlemen –
There is no poetry for the practical man
There is poetry only for the man who spends a certain amount of his time turning the mechanical wheel
For if he spends too much of his time in the practicalities of his practice he becomes something less than a man. He will be eaten up
by the frustrations that are stored in his irrational personality.
An ulcer, gentlemen, is an unwritten poem taking it’s revenge for having been jilted.
It’s an unwritten poem, an undanced dance, an unpainted watercolor.
It’s a declaration from the mankind of the man that a clear spring joy
has not been tapped and that it must break through, muddily, on it’s own.

May all of you continue to do your important work of growing children emotionally, intellectually and artistically.





 

 

 

"Why should the practical man listen to these thought-provoking, imagery laden words?"

 

 

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