It has come to my attention that a significant number of my colleagues are anxious to start their career. My colleagues and I have just recently finished teaching for four months in a school in Saskatchewan, completing our internship as a part of the Arts Education program. I’ve heard in the past that the last semester of university is a drag for post-interns. I’ve heard this from returning students like myself, as well as actual teachers. This is mainly due to the notion that once one has a taste of the job, they only want to go back and start doing it for a living. These people seemingly “check out” of their last semester before it has even begun. Although I can understand where these people are coming from, I find it somewhat peculiar that I don’t share this perspective or notion. I am a 27-year old student, finishing my degree in arts education, and have very little desire to start my career straight away. None of my colleagues are my age, save the few that have been accepted into the program as after-degree students, aptly named BEAD students (Bachelor of Education After Degree). So why are a good majority of my colleagues so anxious to start their lives in the teaching world, when I feel like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be?
We have spent countless hours within our program reflecting on who we have become as individuals, and as pre-service teachers. Reflection is necessary in our program because, at times, it helps us to develop awareness for thoughts, ideologies, and beliefs that may have gone unnoticed through the thick of our practical work. Reflecting takes us back to where we were, and what we were thinking in the moment, but might not have realized. Sometimes the process can be quite useful, as introspection is a powerful tool in discovering the true nature of ourselves. Other times, one discovers nothing other than what they were already aware of, and the process becomes no more than journaling.
Through reflection, we have all been expected to be developing our “philosophy of teaching” over the years. I believe this is a truly wonderful idea, for all of us to have a clear and distinct ideology for what is expected of ourselves, the objectives, and the workings of the profession. However, I have always had an issue with the whole idea of creating a philosophy of teaching as a student. Simply put, how can I have a philosophy of something that I’ve spent no more than a few months practicing?
On October 22, 2011, I wrote a blog post entitled Inspiring Individualism. Within that blog post, I wrote the following:
“Help yourself so you know how to help your students. I would love to construct an “educational philosophy” about my beliefs and ideals towards teaching, but in all honesty, I’d like to just construct a plain old philosophy about my beliefs and ideals towards life first. SO, what I’m essentially getting at is, if one is void of inspiration, motivation, and all the like-terms, how does one expect to motivate others to learn, let alone learn about oneself, and truly inspire individualism?”1
During this time, I was around the halfway point of my internship at a high school in Regina, SK. I was teaching three to four classes a day all as a part of acquiring my bachelors degree. There’s something about not getting paid a dime for a job you’re thinking of starting a career in. Not only do you not get paid for a minute of it, you’re charged tuition for a full-time semester. Needless to say, you find out if the profession is meant for you rather quickly. I enjoyed my internship as a completely unique experience in my life, and reaffirmed that I belong in a high school educational setting. I built some incredible professional relationships with other teachers and administrators, and founded bonds with multiple students. Yet, at the end of the day I struggled in feeling ready to be paid for this kind of work.
Certain days of my internship would approach with a seeming lack of preparation, despite my neatly typed lesson plans that were, in themselves, part of a succinct unit plan. Perhaps this was simply because I walked into nearly every lesson without prior knowledge or experience of running it. I am personally now believing that it could be much more than nerves. This goes back to my own quote I mentioned previously.
I have ideas towards my philosophy of education, but I have firmly believed that it should always be in adaptation. On that note, my philosophy has largely been left unfinished. I never thought that it made sense for me to complete such an ideology before I finished my program, let alone before putting my first couple years of teaching under my belt. In 2008, I stated in an assignment that:
“A relationship between teaching and learning should be pure. This means that integrity and authenticity should always be considered when building the relationship between a teacher and a student. It is also in my belief that in order to grow and prosper as teacher, one must become a life-long learner. Without the continuation of gaining knowledge, interest or desire in one’s career may very well diminish.”
This assignment asked us as students to construct our philosophy of education. Among the other things that I had written back then, this is the only paragraph that I feel has stood the test of time. The rest may as well be adapted, changed, or removed. However, I felt this paragraph was important to mention specifically because of one thing: life-long learning. This is a concept we learned early in our studies of education, and I believe it is also among the most important. It is also a determining factor in why I feel I am not ready to pursue a career just yet.
It comes down to what I’ve been trained to teach, and my own experience in it all. Music is my major, along with drama being my minor, and I am passionate about both, especially the former. Music has been a staple in my life as long as I can remember, but perhaps not in the most traditional sense. I listened to Loverboy, Billy Idol, and Twisted Sister on my Fisher Price record player at the age of 4. I collected CDs from an early age and am now sitting at the 400 mark. I was a band student for no more than a couple years before quitting to pick up the guitar. I have continually played guitar for the last thirteen years, and have written and performed my own material in a number of bands, ranging from rock and pop-punk to post-hardcore. It has lead my musical tastes and knowledge to be fairly broad.
However, I am now at an age where I have the capacity to build that knowledge and use it in a constructive process, in a professional and/or creative manner. When my program finishes, there is every opportunity for myself to explore the potentials in the skills and knowledge I possess, artistically, educationally, and experientially. I am convinced that, as a future educator, this is one of the most beneficial undertakings I could partake in. As I mentioned earlier, there is that seeming lack of preparation that I had felt, and I believe it stems from the desire to further myself as an artistic being, as well as the desire to become the educator I have always thought was achievable.
I am interested in bringing a new foundation for music programs in high schools. One that no longer concentrates on teaching students aspects of music that are not beneficial to them. While I am aware that there is a major overhaul of the Saskatchewan curriculums currently in progress, perhaps re-writing the curriculum for Music or “Arts Education” is not the answer. According to the Saskatchewan Curriculum website, the most up-to-date curriculum for a high school general music class can be found under “Arts Education 10, 20, 30” and was put into practice in September of 1996; over fifteen years ago. To put this date into perspective, it was five years prior to the 1st generation iPod being released to the public.2 Saskatchewan’s music curriculums are running on ideas that precede one of the most revolutionary audio inventions of our time.
Not to mention that, in our day and age, the music industry has become an increasingly complex market to navigate; one that is drastically different than that of which we saw in 1996. This is due to a new generation of music distribution techniques, some of which are legal, others not so much, which has the music industry’s profits plummeting at significant rates.3
Perhaps the answer to an outdated curriculum lies in a new approach to music altogether. I spent most of my university career waiting for that one class to be able to teach or show me where to find the resources I was looking for; the tools I needed so I could teach students exactly what I thought would be beneficial to them. Funny enough, a class that pointed me in the right direction was classified as being through the Faculty of Fine Arts, and as a media studies class. The subjects mentioned above are a glimpse of what I believe should be considered for a new generation of general music students. How do I flesh out these ideas and turn them into projects and activities that are practical? How can I create a new pathway for students in a subject that is deeply rooted in its early history and traditional methods? These are some questions that I have asked myself. Thus, this is why I believe it is important that I spend time to identify, research, develop, and fine tune the knowledge I need to thrive in my endeavours. I also believe the same amount of effort is necessary for me artistically, as practicing something I teach should be of equal importance. As a future educator, this is what I perceive life-long learning as, and how it should be approached by all educators.