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Monday, October 27, 2014

Local Teachers Visit Mason to Share their Expertise

On Friday, October 24th, music teachers from  local schools participated in a panel discussion on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Each panelist had three things in common: 1) they have 2-5 years of full-time teaching experience, 2) they were recommended by the music education faculty, and 3) they are all successful Mason alumni.

The topic for the panelists to discuss was Techniques and Strategies for Managing Student Behavior in the Music Classroom.  When asked to describe their "number one pet peeve involving student behavior," the panelists were clear: talking during rehearsal. Abby Izzo set the tone for the discussion, "Students talk if they are having a good day, a bad day, about the music, about all kinds of things. Sometimes it is about the music, sometimes it is not; your job is to keep talking from distracting the flow and pacing of the lesson by re-directing this off-task behavior." Kelly Hood shared and demonstrated her tip for managing excessive talking by using a chime to remind students when it is time to re-focus on the lesson. She also stressed the importance of understanding that teachers must evaluate their own teaching behavior as that will greatly influence student behaviors; both good and bad. Vincent Prinzivalli described a powerful lesson he learned while engaged in his student teaching experience with local band director Andrew Loft. According to Prinzivalli, "the best thing you can do [in a large ensemble rehearsal] is to get off the podium and circulate throughout the classroom. By doing so, your proximity to the students will quickly remind them not to engage in unnecessary talking when you are standing right next to them."

Peter Kadeli stressed the importance of being overly prepared. Upon accepting a position at his current school, he learned he had to teach a course in music technology. According to Kadeli, "Keep all your notebooks from your method courses. In this case, I was fortunate to take Dr. Jesse Guessford's class in music technology, this proved to be a valuable foundation for building the curriculum for the course I teach. When the students are engaged in learning, behavior problems are minimized." Patrick Smith echoed this sentiment, "It is true what they say, the students can't talk when they have their horns to their face." In addition, Smith talked about the importance of realizing the variety of ways that students learn in order to develop plans that incorporate a differentiated instructional approach  presenting the material in an organized but flexible way in order to accommodate all student learning needs in order to achieve maximum growth.

When sharing her number one tip involving student behavior, Michelle Fleischman described the importance of contacting the  students' classroom teacher. According to Fleischman, "Often the student who exhibits unusual behavior has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that describes specific accommodations and strategies for helping students with special needs. The classroom teacher who sees the child regularly can also provide important suggestions that will clue you in on how to work with the student."

The session concluded with questions from the audience. One question pertained to working with students (and their parents) who speak languages other than English. Nicole Scher, who minored in Spanish while at Mason, offered this advice, "If you can work it into your schedule to take a foreign language like Spanish. that will be valuable. However, there are resources such as translators available to teachers through their school and district to help communicate with students who have Limited English Proficiency (LEP). In addition, these students really do want to learn English and sometimes it is important to engage them in conversations in English in order to help them build their ability and confidence in speaking English. At the end of the day we must remember that we teach music, and that is a language all unto itself."

  • Abby Izzo, Band, Centreville Elementary School (FCPS). Dwayne A. Young, Principal
  • Michelle Fleischman, Orchestra, Robert Frost Middle School (FCPS). Eric McCann, Principal
  • Kelly Hood, General Music, Oak Hill Elementary School (FCPS). Dr. Amy Goodloe, Principal
  • Peter Kadeli, Chorus, Bishop O’Connell High School (Private). Dr. Joeseph E. Vorbach III, Principal
  • Vincent Prinzivalli, Band, Stonewall Middle School (PWCS). John Miller, Principal
  • Nicole Scher, Orchestra, Bailey’s Elementary School (FCPS). Marie Lemmon, Principal
  • Patrick Smith, Band, Lake Braddock Secondary School (FCPS). Dave Thomas, Principal
  • Special thanks to the GMU NAfME Collegiate chapter for providing food. Sara Martin, President

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