As an ethnomusicologist who both lectures at the university level, and teaches primary and secondary students, I take great interest in seeing the different perspectives students bring to a topic. This is compounded with my own research interests, which lead me to read a great deal of material which often seems abstract and impenetrable. I often ask myself what value a complex article in a journal can have to a student studying music at an IB level, or to an undergraduate whose dissertation I’m supervising. Within academia, it is not difficult to feel like life happens in — to borrow a phrase often used in the media these days — an ivory tower.
Teaching is necessarily a grounding act, that forces the academic to question, rethink, and reframe ideas. As such, I use these principles to help guide my teaching approach and make lessons engaging and interesting, while also ensuring that students continue to do the hard work of thinking critically:
- It’s okay to end up with more questions than we started with.
- Many of these questions can be addressed effectively using the appropriate tools and frameworks.
- These tools and frameworks are not beyond the understanding of students at any level; they can get their heads around them.
- As a teacher, it’s my job to give students the tools they can use effectively at each stage of their development and education.
- And finally, there’s more to read and learn for the student who wants it, and it’s a worthwhile endeavour to do so — even if it’s a difficult book in which they don’t understand every single word.
Does this work? I can safely say that, as an educator, some of my biggest accomplishments have been when I see the look on a student’s face when confusion turns to clarity, or when they finally ‘get’ something. The principles above help this to happen more often in my classrooms, and I hope it will continue to do so.