Monday, November 2, 2009

What's In Your Teacher Toolbox?

It's time for an activity.  Imagine your instructional methodologies as individual tools in a teacher toolbox.  First let's look at the general "types" of tools in your toolbox.  For example, in a typical toolbox there may be screwdrivers, wrenches and hammers. Under each of these types is an infinite number of tools for specific jobs, even a few that seem to cross the lines between tool types.  The key to making sense of your toolbox is to start organizing all of your many tools into types.  

So how would you group your tools into "types"?  Here's an example.  Let's say as a teacher you provide group lessons, private lessons, small ensemble lessons, and supervised mentor lessons (kids teaching kids).  You could group these individual tools together under "Instructional Delivery Methods."  Each one of these tools is a way you can provide instruction.  So it makes sense to group them together.  Another example would be "Communications."  Under Communications, maybe you use progress reports, lesson rubrics, attendance logs and report cards.  Each one of these tools help you communicate to various audiences how well a student is performing.  Keeping with our toolbox analogy, we have now grouped together all of the screwdrivers and hammers.  Keep going until you have grouped everything as logically as you can.  If you end up with a few stragglers, put them into a miscellaneous group for now.

An evolving and growing area in my actual toolbox at home is "Support Tools."  My stud finder, my volt meter and my dimensional calculator are all tools that help me make decisions about my projects. Interestingly, all of these tools are rather high tech, digital devices offering a ton of information more quickly and with less error than the manual versions from the past.  Harnessing the innovation provided by these tools allows me to complete more complicated projects while improving the results at less cost.

Like my home repair toolbox, my music teacher’s toolbox has evolved over time.  What about your toolbox?  Have you adopted modern tools to address complicated issues, to cut down on error or operational inefficiencies or to increase communications and student performance?  As you search through your toolbox, assess where you have a strong tool set as well as where additions are needed.

Let's look at a few examples of tool types including Instructional Delivery Methods, Communications and a new one for this discussion, Assessments.

Instructional Delivery Methods -- Imagine if you had a way to provide easily accessible instrumental music instruction for your students?  How many students do you have that could benefit from supplemental instruction?  How many would benefit from working with a live teacher 1:1 outside of the school day?  We all know students who benefit from private instruction.  For many though, busy family lives, conflicting after school activities, private lesson fees, and teacher availability create road blocks to working with private teachers.  Our mission at viaAcademies is to be a tool in your toolbox to address those challenges.

Communications -- I once heard a teacher say "If you want to know how my program is doing, come to the concert!" While I believe they had good intentions, I don't think the message is all that positive at a time when sharing specific information drives good educational programs forward, demonstrates weaknesses, helps create solutions to underlying problems and helps build community support through program transparency.  The teacher who shared the quote above would have a really hard time building a supportive community only seeing the parents and families at the concerts.  Sending messages, engaging others for feedback, sharing student data such as grades and detailed teacher feedback are all specific and critical tools to have in your toolbox. These tools help you make decisions on how best to help your students.  The viaAcademies program provides up to the minute access to student data to you, the student and the parents.  Discussion areas and private messaging provide options to share information with as many or as few as you desire.

Assessments -- Time often works against us in instrumental music.  Few teachers point out they have too much time to work with students.  In an effort to balance performance skills with knowledge skills, it is easy to side step one or the other to create balance.  We know students must demonstrate knowledge of musical elements to be successful.  We also know students must have ample opportunity to receive valuable critiques from us as their teachers in order to hone their skills.  Add to that, a big unknown in our efforts to teach students.  When students  leave our in-school lessons, what do they do at home?  We like to think they will follow the practice assignments we give them and fill in their practice logs accurately.  But do they?  Why not eliminate the unknowns and provide the much needed assessment opportunities through one solution?  The viaAcademies program provides content on the elements of music as well as quizzes and written test to measure student mastery.  Each viaAcademies class includes 25+ playing assignments that are recorded and submitted for feedback from a viaAcademies teacher.  Or, if you decide to roll out our program at your school, you can serve as the teacher for the viaAcademies online classes and provide the feedback yourself, to your students.  We provide many options to integrate a new level of assessment into your toolbox.   

What's in your teacher toolbox? I hope this post provided you with some ideas on how to assess your current tool set and look at areas for improvement.  I look forward to your comments and questions.  As always, please let us know if we can help you, Make Music Click!

1 comment:

  1. you blog's temple looks so beautiful, I like the background, is this temple called "Awesome"?

    my rolling tool chest blog here, thanks.