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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Four Questions for New Teachers by Nancy Flanagan

Photo: Nancy Flanagan
Nancy Flanagan, education writer and consultant focusing on teacher leadership reports, "Wherever you are tonight-- aspiring educator, in the field teaching, studying the field as researcher or teacher educator--it's really easy to push big philosophical questions away. There are hundreds of other things to worry about. But-- if you don't get in the habit of keeping Big Questions like these bubbling on the back burners of your mind, the magic and moral purpose of teaching will fade or even be lost. Here are four questions for you to consider." 

Photo: Education Week (blog)

Last week, I got to do something I believe is relatively extraordinary: participate, as speaker, at a Rally for Music Education at Michigan State University. It was a great event--free pizza and cookies, lots of cheering and alma mater-singing (in four part harmony, no less).  All music education students were invited: first-years, masters candidates who are in the field teaching, student teachers, graduate students and researchers, faculty. Awards and scholarships were celebrated. Outcomes for recent graduates were announced (virtually all of them have been placed in music jobs--which caused a lot of smiling).  The Dean was there (he sings bass). 

My remarks:
Tonight, your department has done something exceptionally rare: dedicated an evening to thinking about the meaning and purpose of your education. Ironic, isn't it? Most schools of education just launch into classes and assignments and grades and get 'er done. A department that actually wants you to think deeply about--even honor--your commitment to teaching music is exceptional. You're lucky to be here.

I started teaching junior high band 40 years ago this month. I did not ask Big Questions back then. Certainly, I had big goals. I wanted to be the best band director in the world, or at least Michigan. The only questions I ever asked were small and technical--like how to tune a French horn or where to hide the reed box money. For a long time, I barely kept my head above water, and I never talked to other music educators or the other teachers in my building about important things. It would have been---embarrassing, somehow, to discuss my philosophy of arts education. Not that I had really developed one, per se. 
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Source: Education Week (blog)