Children

Parenting and teaching —- a personal summer reflection

There’s no greater luxury in the world than the knowledge that your children are cared for by warm, intelligent, humorous, and kind teachers.

Each start of a new school year the privileges and good fortune our family enjoys by being able to send our children to work with incredible teachers who are dedicated to nurturing young people as well as our community becomes more and more clear. Similarly, the meaning of schooling and the value of it continue to shift profoundly as what is your life’s most important priority is taken into the care of others.

Parenting and teaching copy

Of course, this sort of personal realization is not an entirely new or unique concept for any who work in education. Being both a teacher and a parent affects my views and undoubtedly all parents recognize a shift in their perspective on schooling as their children move from grade to grade. Surely all who care for children parents or otherwise, recognize new insights and meanings of school as life moves through its various stages.

That said – for me…

…being a parent of young children continues to open up new perspectives on schooling that are at the same time heart-felt, visceral, and intellectually fresh. For example, watching my children go through school is:

  • Heartfelt = It’s a bittersweet feeling watching as they find new degrees of independence and stretch themselves further out into the world
  • Visceral = I learn what it means to literally “swell with pride” as they take courageous new steps towards new experiences and overcome challenges and obstacles in their path towards being functional members of a new community
  • Intellectual = I am constantly fascinated by the growth in information processing ability and new schema they acquire as they demonstrate more sophisticated skills, knowledge, and conceptual understanding

This perspective brings vividness to…

…the consequences of policy decisions that impact the atmosphere of a school from the macro-structures of community embeddedness and curricular design to the micro-details of daily routines and classroom activities.

This fluctuating and evolving worldview is especially interesting to me given the apparent disconnect between such meanings and values of schooling and the perspectives often present in national discussions of school reform. Most discussions of policy and systemic change seem to only rarely be cast from a point of view of care or stewardship of any sort. In contrast, our discussions seem most often drenched in political hyperbole that emphasize insufficient standardized outcomes and are bereft of local community values.

My guess is that the condition of schooling would be better off if reforms were considered from heartfelt, visceral, and intellectual perspectives that come with the sorts of priorities described here rather than from the detached and politicized ideological rhetoric of many publicized reformers. I am grateful and reassured that many of my colleagues in music education and others in the arts in particular embrace a similar perspective and only hope that such perspectives continue to become more prominently communicated to stakeholders and the public-at-large.

Here’s to a heartfelt, visceral, and intellectually stimulating start to the school year for all.

 

What if elementary general music programs were cut from the public schools?

This question was one of the prime motivations for a recent exploratory research study IU colleague and co-author Dr. Brent Gault and I conducted. Resources for elementary music programs as pertains to specialist faculty, time for instruction, and space and materials are perhaps especially vulnerable to cutbacks and fiscal instability. This is perhaps partly due to the relative lack of community visibility that elementary music programs enjoy in comparison to secondary school music programs.

We were curious as to what types of experiences might be left over for students should elementary music specialist-led programs be cut – and how those experiences might vary for students from different demographic segments of the nation?

ECLS wordle copy 

The background:

We analyzed publicly available data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) conducted by the National Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. The ECLS collected data about a nationally representative cohort of approximately 3.8 million kindergarten children (K class of 1999) as they progressed through elementary and middle school.

Regarding music, the ECLS collected information about the nature of the musical experiences the children received in their academic classroom setting as opposed to their music class-specific experiences. As such, the data allow for a rough estimate of the kinds and amounts of musical experiences students receive from their academic classroom teachers apart from those that may be delivered from an elementary music specialist.

Drawing from the data that were available, our analyses were conducted to determine:

  • The frequency and duration with which children received music instruction in their academic classroom setting
  • The frequency that music was used to teach math in the academic classroom setting
  • The percentage of children receiving formal/private music instruction outside of school
    • We also examined each these types of experiences according to student urbanicity (i.e., rural, suburban, urban location), socioeconomic status, and race.

Classroom teachers most frequently reported engaging children in some sort of music activity once or twice a week for 30 minutes or less. This excerpt serves as a summary of our most compelling findings regarding access to such classroom experiences:

Music instruction (in the academic classroom setting) appears to be… …less available for students of color from urban and rural settings and of lower socioeconomic status. In addition, access to privatized formal instruction seems readily available for those children who are arguably the least in need and significantly lacking for those with the greatest need.” (Miksza & Gault, Online First, 2014, p. 11)

We’re happy to report that the article is now available as an “online first” offering in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

Miksza, P., & Gault, B. (online first, 2014). Classroom music experiences of US elementary school children: An analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Journal of Research in Music Education, 62, 4-17. 

Obi-Wan your teaching, Episode XXXVII

PRELUDE

What does it mean… to Obi-Wan your teaching?

Definition: To seek wisdom about teaching, to keep a cool head when negotiating good and bad ideas, to have a sense of humor about teaching, to be present when you’re needed (e.g., you may be their only hope), to commit to nurturing the next generation of whatever

Why is this episode thirty seven?

To leave room for prequels (since that’s the way it’s done – obviously)

Episode XXXVII: Listen

Listen to your students like Obi-Wan listens to R2-D2…

    • Be patient and listen very carefully to what your students have to say
    • Even if it’s hard for others to understand, you might be the only one around who can translate what it is they’re trying to say
    • Even when they’re precocious your students can be helpful in ways you can’t imagine
    • Recognize that they’re an integral part of the “team” and “process” when it comes to your teaching

For your listening pleasure…

A link to nothing but R2-D2s sounds

The Future of Music Education: Continuing the Dialogue about Curricular Reform

I’m excited to report the publication of a recent article I wrote for the Music Educators Journal titled: “The future of music education: Continuing the dialogue about curricular reform”

The heart of this article is captured in the opening quote: “The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.” Alfred North Whitehead

In this article I highlight several trends regarding critical arguments that have recently been raised when discussing the secondary large-ensemble tradition in the public schools. In support of secondary school ensembles, I argue for a discussion of curricular reform that avoids polemical rhetoric, straw men, and hasty generalization. I also suggest taking special care when considering the incorporation of new technologies and popular music idioms in music education curricula.

I describe how critical energies might be redirected to what I see as urgent needs for the profession such as:

  • Directing advocacy efforts towards increasing access to music education for underserved populations of children
  • Focusing advocacy efforts towards enhancing support for foundational elementary music experiences
  • Transforming teaching to maximize what’s possible from within the large-ensemble model without needlessly tearing it down by:
    • Increasing the breadth of comprehensive musicianship experiences possible
    • Increasing the degree of individual student empowerment
    • Broadening the range of collaborative approaches to music-making that teach­ers and students could engage in
    • Broadening the inclusiveness of repertoire in large-ensemble curricula

After briefly, yet sincerely, acknowledging the certain need to expand curricular offerings for music in the secondary schools, I close with the following:

“…it will be necessary to cultivate dispositions of patience and reflection with visions of curricular transformation if we hope for significant and lasting changes in the nature and quality of music education for all.”

Please check out the full article here (free to all NAfME members – or email me if you’d like to read it):

Miksza, P. (2013). The future of music education: Continuing the dialogue. Music Educators Journal, 99, 45-50.

Arts Ed: Reasons to Advocate and Levers to Pull

Reasons to advocate: Inspiring stories

The collegiate chapter of the National Association for Music Education at IU (see their blog!) recently participated in the music advocacy groundswell event (found here) by collecting stories from children about why music matters to them. They made efforts to contact public school teachers in the greater Bloomington area and reached out to the teachers from their hometowns. They ended up collecting nearly 18,000 words worth of inspirational stories of how music has played an essential role in kids’ lives across the country.

The comments the children made are powerful to say the least… they speak of many benefits of music that we, as musicians and teachers, know to be true – finding a place to belong, uncovering a special talent, learning about themselves, developing a means of self-expression, bringing them closer together with friends and family, connecting to a greater community, music as a release and a joy, the acquisition of skills and dispositions that are benefits in other areas of life, etc.

Here is a word cloud from the collection of stories that emphasizes the sentiments the students most commonly expressed – click on it for a close-up:

Better wordle 2

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