On March 5, Chief Event Coordinator Rebekah Bodner led "The Foundations of Musical Education" workshop with QuaranTunes teachers. This is the very first workshop that focused on guiding teachers through the teaching process to improve the student experience.
Bodner has taught a wide range of band instruments, from the flute to the bass. As someone with a lot of music teaching experience, she was inspired to create this workshop after observing how many teachers were running into similar problems with students.
“I have a lot of experience teaching various kinds of students,” Bodner said. “And so I thought it could be an amazing opportunity to present our teachers with the opportunity to learn about educating. [Just] because somebody knows how to play an instrument does not mean that they necessarily are going to be the masters of teaching that instrument.”
"[Just] because somebody knows how to play an instrument does not mean that they are going to be the masters of teaching that instrument"
Bodner centered the workshop around the following essential teaching principles:
To put those ideas into action, she presented four examples of troubling student scenarios that teachers often face:
Stacy is a student who loves to learn. However, she often becomes frustrated easily when she is having trouble learning something new. You tell her that sometimes things take practice and won’t come easily or on the first try. Unfortunately, Stacy becomes increasingly agitated and starts to say she wants to give up.
Maxwell is one of your new students who is excited about music. He loves going to class but is making very slow progress. He begins to get bored working on the same material. You have suggested both to his parents and to him that practice is necessary to work on more fun songs. Maxwell continues not to practice and starts asking when he will be able to learn other songs.
Jordyn is a fast learner. Although they have only had a couple lessons, their progress is noticeable. However, as you have more lessons with Jordyn, their attitude towards you and your advice becomes negative and sometimes mean. It has started to become very hard to teach them.
Macy is one of your new students. However, Macy is very shy and has a hard time opening up in your lessons. Additionally, whenever you try to get her engaged in the subject, she seems unresponsive and bored.
Participants were split up into breakout rooms of two, where they were assigned one of the scenarios and discussed potential approaches to the problem. After a few minutes, participants were brought back into the main room and each pair shared their solutions. Here are the ones they came up with:
Since Stacy is a beginner student, it would be easy for her to switch to another instrument that might come more easily for her. In addition, the curriculum could be modified in a way that takes the difficulty level down. Slowly working with Stacy would work in her favor because she already has a love for learning.
The teacher can empathize with Maxwell by telling him about their own experiences with practicing struggles and sort of show-off their skill with the instrument to prove that practice was a necessary step towards getting to that level. Showing instead of telling is often more effective and gets the student more excited about all the creative possibilities the instrument holds. Goal-setting or implementing a practice competition are other strategies to encourage the student by showing them that they are making tangible progress.
A serious talk would be needed between Jordyn and the teacher. The most direct way to solve this scenario is to have an honest chat with the student and show them that a student-teacher relationship would not work if there is no mutual respect or collaboration. Parents should not be involved unless the situation gets worse.
No matter how shy they are, most kids like affirmations to boost their confidence and feel included, not forcibly pushed out of their comfort zone. The teacher should try to be welcoming and inviting and make the student want to be in class by creating more of an activity or game-based curriculum. For example, instead of a lecture slideshow, an interactive worksheet can allow the teacher and student to work together and allow the student to open up a bit more. Overall, the teacher should try different strategies and observe which one the student responds to the best. For example, if the student is a visual learner, the teacher can use different colors to represent different music notes.
Bodner is satisfied with how the workshop went. It was a great opportunity for teachers to practice their communication and problem-solving skills alongside others.
“[Everyone was] really engaged today, which was really fun to see,” Bodner said. “I'm hoping that if they didn't learn something new, they either got to practice … the skills that they already have with the scenarios that we worked on.”
["Everyone was] really engaged today, which was really fun to see"
The session ended with a Q&A led by Bodner. High school sophomore Akshara Krishna, who taught at QuaranTunes since September 2021, took advantage of the time to ask Bodner about a problem she was facing with her violin student. Although Krishna’s students enjoyed spending time with her, they did not enjoy playing the instrument and it was hard to motivate them.
“The biggest takeaway was [that] ... the big [problem] was just opening the violin case,” Krishna said. “Not just playing, but just getting past that first barrier preparing [the instrument].”
The QuaranTunes community should look forward to similar teacher workshops in the future.
“I think we should have done this a while ago,” Bodner said. “I don't know why I didn't. [Hopefully] we can do … routine workshops like this … maybe every quarter or twice a year where … our teachers … get to practice the best skills and methods for teaching students.”
Follow QuaranTunes on Instagram (@quarantunes_pa) and sign up for our mailing list to learn more about future free workshops and masterclasses.