New School Year Thoughts from Dr. Kevin Vigil
Dear Guitar Education Colleagues,
We asked one of our favorite guitar education leaders, Dr. Kevin Vigil from Loudoun County, Virginia, to share some thoughts about how he prepares for a new school year. Wow, are we glad we did! These are awesome, and we hope you find them helpful too. More on Kevin and his program is online here.
Greetings Guitar Gurus,
Some of you may have already begun the new school year while others will soon be in the classroom. Some of you are experienced teachers while some are starting their adventures in guitar teaching for the first time. No matter what your circumstance, welcome to the 2017 – 2018 school year!
I have been invited to share some thoughts and tips as we all begin this year, so here we go…
1) Learn your students’ names! Make it a point to learn every student’s first name during the first week of school, their last name by the end of the second week and the parents’ names by the third week of school. Calling students by their names is a sign that you care enough about each student to get to know them better. Get to know the parents and make it known that you are available to them. Many of them will be your strongest supporters.
2) There is a difference between ten years of experience and one year of experience ten times. We have probably all had a teacher sometime in our education that used the same syllabus and simply changed dates and presented the same exact lecture multiple times. I encourage you not to be that teacher. Instead, reflect on last year’s experience; what would you do differently? If you are a new teacher, journal everything and go back and review that journal as you prepare for the following year.
3) Backward Design: Yes, No or Maybe? Backward Design is a method of setting goals before making lesson plans and creating assessments. This is a standard model in education. Goals are certainly important, so ask yourself: What abilities should your students have acquired by the end of the year? How will you sequence instruction? On the other hand, be alert to your students’ needs. Not all students learn at the same pace. There may be times when forward design works better to improve mastery of a particular skill or concept. Remember, your students are not just numbers, they are kids. Be willing to alter your goals if you feel that it is in the best interest of your students.
4) Second chances. At the beginning of the year, you will likely have returning students in your program. Some may have been problematic last year and you may even have some negative feelings about a particular student. Take a cleansing breath and think back to your Human, Growth and Development classes or your own childhood. One year or even a summer can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Ask yourself: If the student was problematic in your class last year, why did they sign up to study with you again? You probably made more of an impact in that child’s life than you thought. You are the adult capable of compassion and forgiveness. We don’t always know what happens at home and the behaviors that were exhibited previously probably had very little to do with you. In fact, if they are returning, feel confident that they know you have much to offer.
5) Create opportunities for your students so that this year is uniquely special. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. You can set the stage for meaningful opportunities throughout the year. Give your students the opportunity to be in self-directed ensembles, lead a sectional, demonstrate what they do in their free time or participate in an open mic setting. If a student has a creative idea, pursue it with them. Other opportunities include community involvement in the form of performances at libraries, other schools, senior living facilities, or even guitar festivals. Bring in a special guest or take your students to a concert. Be creative, but most of all, make this year somehow different from last year so that it is uniquely special and memorable.
6) Stay active and nurture your passion. I assume that you learned and fell in love with the guitar at some point in time. Stay connected with those feelings and continue to practice your craft. Students are quite perceptive; they know if their teacher is fully engaged with them or simply going through the motions. When you demonstrate your passion for playing and teaching, your students will benefit more than you will ever know. You may enjoy watching this video of some teachers in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in Virginia staying active and collaborating together to the benefit of their students.
I hope this is good food for thought and that you have an incredible and special year with your students.
2016 Education Progress Report
See Pepe Romero play Vivaldi with 80 kids (October 2016)!
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