– Benjamin Franklin
Hope you and your families have a safe and happy holiday!
Ok, seriously. What does our 16th President have to do with Music Education? Allow me to explain!
When was the last time you sharpened an axe? I spent my fair share of time chopping wood when I was a kid and quickly became familiar with the process of sharpening an axe. I got really good at it too! It’s a very tiring and painful task to chop wood with a dull axe. I speak from experience here so you don’t have to head to the woods this week to learn this lesson for yourself.
How much time have you spent sharpening your teaching skills lately? Is that a touchy subject? Let me rephrase the question. How much time have you wasted in rehearsals due to a lack of sharpness? Let’s face it, we all go through cycles in our teaching when we’re really on top of our game, and other times when we could really use a boost…a sharper axe if you will.
“If I was given an axe and was told that I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
I was recently reminded of this quote while reading Teaching Music with Passion by Dr. Peter Boonshaft. I’ve read the book a number of times before and I try to make it a point to reread this book about once a year. I always read it with a highlighter and pencil and no matter how many times I’ve read it I always find myself making new notes and discovering new helpful tips to better my teaching. Dr. Boonshaft uses his experience to help us find places where our teaching could be just a bit more effective. Excellent axe sharpening tips in this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who teaches music!
I also highly recommend attending your state’s music educator convention. Texas Music Educators Association, one of the largest in the U.S., begins this week. Nearly 16,000 music educators (past, present, and future) will descend upon the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio from all over the state of Texas, and the U.S. I have friends driving in from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania to attend our convention. If you’ve never been, I would strongly encourage you to drop by this week, or make plans to attend next year. It’s well worth the trip!
Regardless of where they’re coming from, they’re all working on sharpening their “axe” in a number of ways. Some will go to classes, others will be inspired by rehearsals and concerts by All-State musicians, university ensembles, and world-class professional performers. Classes and vendors will be aimed at improving the skills of orchestra, band, choir, elementary, mariachi, guitar teachers, and anyone else who claims music as their profession. Whatever your needs as a music educator, TMEA has something for everyone!
What are you doing to sharpen your axe? What are you doing to make your teaching more effective, more powerful, and more meaningful? Spending some time working on yourself will pay huge dividends in the way you teach, the way your students learn, and the way you feel in the process. Well…go on! Get to sharpening!
Discussion Question: What are some things you do to sharpen your teaching skills?
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