Tonight was another great #oklaed chat. The topic was hiring and retaining teachers, an important and urgent issue given our current teacher shortage. There was some discussion about interview technique, which made me reflect on my own experiences in interviews for teaching positions.
As you can probably surmise from the name of my blog, I teach vocal music (crazymusicteacherlady was already taken…seriously).
One of the questions I am almost always asked in interviews is, “how do you collaborate with other teachers and incorporate other subject areas into your teaching?”
I know the five or six of you who read my blog are just dying to know the answer. You’re in luck, because I’m a people-pleaser. Here you go:
Singing is as much science as it is art. Maybe more so. Mr. Holland may have been able to teach a kid to “play the sunset” on her clarinet.
But in real life, it’s not that magical.
We talk a lot in my classroom about breathing. A LOT. As in…every day. I have to give at least a brief explanation of the breath mechanism in order for students to visualize what is happening inside and outside of their bodies during the process. I explain the difference between diaphragmatic and costal breathing, and why diaphragmatic breathing is imperative to good vocal production. We do many different exercises, and I approach the concept from many different angles in order to encourage good habits with breath support. It’s a mini-biology lesson in my class.
With my older students, I also talk occasionally about the vocal folds, and how sound is produced. This is a good springboard into the science of acoustics. The same principle that makes airplanes fly (the Bernouli Effect), is the one that makes our vocal cords produce sound. Pretty cool, huh?
I tell my students all the time that “music is math”. My right-brained students especially excel at music theory. Many are surprised to discover that there is a “formula” to music composition. It’s not just random notes on a page. With my younger students, we get into math concepts when discussing rhythm. Especially when talking about time signatures. Only a certain number of rhythms will fit into a measure. This is determined by the number of beats in each measure, as indicated by the time signature. When the measure is full, you have to start over in a new measure. Essentially, we are working with different number bases (i.e. a base of “4” instead of “10” like they are accustomed to). They don’t realize it, but they’re thinking critically.
As long as man has been around, there has been music. I’m fairly certain that if we suffered a global catastrophe, and only a handful of humans survived, the first thing they’d do upon exiting whatever cave in which they sheltered would be to bang a few sticks together and write a song to tell the story. Music has always been an integral part of every culture—our traditions, our stories, our ceremonies. I love seeing my students’ faces when I remind them that people nearly 300 years ago were singing the same Vivaldi piece they are rehearsing. It’s sort of a pipe dream of mine to teach a “rock/pop history and culture” class someday. I especially love pointing out cultural and historical references in contemporary music. Just think of how much fun we’d have with Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”!
This is an easy one with vocal music, because we are always dealing with text. With my younger ones, it’s a good introduction to meter. My more mature students are capable of discussing interpretation. I also try to point out “text painting” and the different techniques the composer uses to treat the text and convey the overall meaning. I wrote about this in another post a while back. Also, you should check out this one by Dr. Cobb over at okeducationtruths.
I’m curious…what are some questions you are frequently asked in interviews? Answer in the comments, or better yet…blog about it and I’ll post a link to the responses on this page.