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GMUsicEd

Friday, March 8, 2013

Alumni Spotlight

Name: Michelle Fleischman, Class of 2011
Endorsement Area: Instrumental Music: Orchestra
Schools: Willow Springs Elementary School, Fairfax; and Centreville Elementary School, Centreville
School Population: 900 (Willow Springs ES)
Number of Students in Orchestra: 270


Secrets for attracting so many students into orchestra:  The strings programs at my schools have grown significantly in the last two years. There are a few main components that I believe have helped my program to grow. First and foremost, I made myself available at my schools as much as possible when I started my first year. I made sure to attend school welcome walks and supply drop offs to introduce myself to the parents and students. I also continue to be involved by attending PTA functions, which includes playing volleyball at our school spirit night –my player name is Stringcheese. Next year I am coaching our school jump rope team! I have created a fun and engaging recruitment demonstration that highlights the string program, and demonstrates some of the fun songs that you can play on string instruments. When students sign up for strings, we write their name outside our door (conveniently leading to the cafeteria) on a huge poster board so that everyone can see the students who have joined our orchestra family. Once the students are signed up, it is important to focus on retention. One of my colleagues told me that my programs are so successful because I have made orchestra part of the culture at my schools. My students enjoy coming to class, which helps them learn because they want to be there. I make it a priority to add orchestra news to the school news program whenever possible. For concerts, the students make invitations to personally invite their family, friends, and teachers. The students also make posters to advertise for concerts, which we hang around the building. We have a Note Reading Wall of Fame in the hallway outside of our classroom. Students in the younger grades see this and are excited to join strings even before they are in 4th grade. Yeah, we work hard to attract students into our program.

Biggest challenge so far: Currently, the biggest challenge I face is the limited amount of time that I have with my students each week. I only see each class for 45-minutes per week. For this age group, 20-30 students are large class sizes and this presents special challenges when students are learning the basics and need strong fundamentals that must be fostered with individual attention especially when learning performance fundamentals. Because of this, it is extremely important to be organized and to plan for each class with short-term and long-term goals in mind. Last year, my biggest challenge was balancing my career and personal life. My mentors reminded me of the importance of re-energizing at home. It was very easy last year to bring my work home with me at the end of the day and continue to work until the late hours of the night. Teaching is extremely demanding, and I have learned how important it is for me to take time to relax at home and get a good night sleep so that I can teach to my full potential the next day and every day.

The best thing to happen at work so far: There are so many positive memories from this past year that it is hard to pick just one. The spring concert last year garnered a huge sense of the small successes of each day, like when a student magically comes in and can play all of the string karate belts and then thanks me for it. One of the best moments in my teaching career was last year at my Holiday Concert. It was the first concert of my teaching career, and it also happened to be my birthday. I was nervous because it was in front of a lot of my colleagues and my principal. Not only did the students perform beautifully, but all 240 of my students sang Happy Birthday. It was the moment where I thought, “I cannot believe that I have achieved my goal of becoming a string teacher, and here I am with 240 amazing students who I could not be more proud of.”

Advice for undergraduates pursuing a career in music teaching: Stick together, and help each other. The music education students should act like a family. I know that my graduating class still talks to each other and helps each other on a daily basis, even if it is just providing a few words of encouragement.  Take advantage of the fact that Mason is literally in the heart of Fairfax County Public Schools. There are hundreds of fabulous music teachers within minutes of GMU. Although I participated in field experiences for my music education courses, I sometimes wish that I had spent every extra minute I had visiting schools, networking with teachers. You can talk about methods of teaching all you want, but there is no better lesson than seeing it work in an actual teaching situation. That being said, any GMU music student is always welcome in my classroom.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Michelle. Very thoughtful article, good insights!

    ReplyDelete