Confirm, challenge, inspire.

You may have noticed that my blogs tend to be short and to the point and that I’ve written a lot of them recently. Their frequency and their order are a reflection of what I think about, how I compartmentalize my thoughts and how quickly I jump from one idea to the next. I like to think that my legacy as a teacher is more than the bites of information I feed to my students and that equally what I share with you will lead you on to new thoughts about music and teaching. So today’s blog is going to be a little more introspective about me as a teacher and will be a little more long-winded than normal.

In the classroom my brain whirs and buzzes and clicks through mindmaps, lists, and ways to simplify the knowledge that I want to share with the world’s future guardians of musical culture. It’s noisy in my head. But it’s organized noise. (Perhaps a few philosophically minded musicians out there would consider my brain-noise ‘music’.) So my biggest challenge as a teacher has been letting questions about Music and the Arts happen freely, for me and my students, without my brain turning it into brown paper packages tied up with string! My solution has come in the form of a ‘thinking routine’.

Some of you may have heard of a tool to use in the classroom called ‘thinking routines’. Thinking routines are strategies to get your students to find ways to think on a deeper level and to begin to analyse their world rather than just think in facts. We use thinking routines as teachers all the time without realizing it – ever used a KWL? My favourites to use in my classroom are…

–       I See, I Think, I Wonder or I Hear, I Think, I Wonder

–       And Two Stars and A Wish.

–       (Want to know more? Click here)

… but they’re a little too concrete and simple in my mind. In fact, I tried to come up with my own personal thinking routine so I’d stop putting so much of the Art world into neat little packages. I needed to allow myself to freely wonder about my world. So I came up with …

Confirm. Challenge. Inspire.

A little background –>

I took a group of students on a Theatre/ Visual Art trip to London one October holiday. I wanted to show them the performances that inspired me, the art that challenged my concept of what Art is and confirmed my thoughts about Art. I wanted them to approach it with open and questioning minds, the same way that I did. So every show and Art gallery we went to see, I set them the task of finding:

–       A moment or artwork that confirmed their ideas about what art and theatre is

–       A moment or artwork that challenged their ideas about what art and theatre is

–       And a moment or artwork that inspired them to want to create new art and theatre.

They weren’t assessed on it. They didn’t have to talk about it. They just had to think about it as they were watching the performances or wandering through the galleries I took them to.

The best thing about it? They started talking about art with each other and when they came back to the classroom after the holidays they started drawing from the material in the classroom and comparing it to what they’d seen on the field trip. And, it made me feel really good about teaching and the legacy I could leave as a teacher of the Arts.

This semester I’ve found myself going back to the idea of confirm, challenge, inspire and I really have felt the need to talk about it. I made some posters for my hallway last semester that have pictures of famous musicians (Bob Marley, Schubert, Evelyn Glennie, Bjork) and they ask the students the question “What will your musical legacy be?”.  My answer? Well, I may never be a famous musician but I have my fingers crossed that I will inspire my students to

– confirm why they love the music on their iPods,

– challenge them to listen to music and to perform in public (or private),

– and inspire them to shape the future of music and listeners.

About Alison Armstrong

Alison Armstrong BMus./BEd. (Queensland University of Technology), Dip. ABRSM (Performance- Singing) I have trained to teach Music (Elementary, Middle and High School) and Drama (Middle and High School). This is my 7th year as a teacher.
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2 Responses to Confirm, challenge, inspire.

  1. Yes! This is why it is important for schools to be connected leanring communities. I will use this in my class TODAY!

    A scene from The Wall that confirmed your ideas about what film and a song could be…
    A scene from The Wall that challenged your ideas about what film and a song could be…
    A scene from The Wall that inspired you to want to create a new scene or song…

    Thanks.

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