This portfolio is a representation of my journey through my first three months of pursuing the Music In Education concentration at NEC. It has been a rewarding, transformative semester and I’m excited to share that growth with you. Enjoy!
Who I am, Why I'm here
I started playing the violin when I was almost three years old. I was so small that I started on a styrofoam violin and a wooden stick thing that vaguely resembled an actual bow. When I got older and started to understand that practicing means spending time away from friends, I really did consider quitting- but I could never bring myself to do it. Fast-forward several (20) years and my journey with the violin has brought me to joy, fulfillment, and teaching.
I’m humbled and honored to be fortunate enough to have had some really great teaching and performing experiences over the past few years, finishing up my undergrad degree and beginning my master’s. I’ve taught students as young as 4 and as old as 70. I’ve taught in places as fresh and creative as schools and libraries, and as contemplative and reflective as a prison. As a performer, I’ve played in venues as musically seasoned as world-famous concert halls, and in places as musically wanting as hurricane-stricken areas of Puerto Rico. My experiences, with all of their diversity and tremendous impact on my musical life, have led me to wish to participate in continuing the immersive legacy that is music-making by teaching.
My passion for teaching kind of snuck up on me- it’s been slow, but consuming. Ask me 10 years ago if I saw myself teaching and I probably would’ve laughed sarcastically and given you a solid, “yeah right.” Now, I see no alternative that leads individuals into the beauty, depth, creativity, personal growth, and achievement of music that teaching offers.
I took this class because I wanted to learn what I didn’t know about teaching. I encountered in this class challenge, affirmation, inspiration, perspective, and growth. And I take away from this class a breadth of knowledge and possibility for my future as a teacher.
...in the form of Triple Entry Journals
Triple Entry Journals (TEJs) attempt to synthesize and conceptually apply the course readings to my life. The reason I call them my academic diary is because the summaries are conclusions that have been drawn after what was usually a very growthful thought process, and are deeply personal to me and my teaching philosophy.
I’ve only selected a handful of the TEJs I submitted- the ones that had the most impact on the transformation of my teaching philosophy. Together, they are a chronological representation of my intellectual and philosophical thought process during this course.
“I’m frustrated that the value of music in education is overlooked, but more frustrated that I don’t know how to go about effective change.” -me
I include this entry because it was my first TEJ and my first reading from this class, and does a good job representing the mindset that I started the class with. Pre-MIE Hannah was really in for quite the ride…
“The quality of our work and time will never fail us. Neglect of attention will.” -also me
This entry talks about “flow” as a concept that describes the experience of being so completely focused on a task that time goes away and all that matters in that moment is being attentive to what you’re doing. It talks about how we could all benefit from more flow in our lives, whether we’re working on music or performing everyday tasks.
“As teachers, successfully using this information means not assuming that there is only one way to teach how to solve a problem- we must be attentive to each individual student and build on what knowledge they already have.” -me again
This is TEJ #3 and by now I’ve started to feel comfortable with these entries. This one is in response to an article that talks about metacognition and education, but not necessarily with music. It’s a concept that I’ve thought about a lot, but never knew exactly how to categorize or organize it. I found that it explains the practicing process and, when contextualized with music education, helps me understand how to better serve my students.
“Meet students in their world and don’t try to force them into your own.” -you guessed it: me
Boy oh boy, did this response throw me for a loop. It even sponsored a few heated conversations with some friends who are in strong opposition. The idea that this article presented, the idea that “talent” is a useless social construct and myth, hit home for me in ways that I didn’t expect. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty details, I’ll summarize by saying that I’ve since come to a perspective that I will carry with me into my teaching philosophy: leading a select number of my students to believe they are “talented” will do me, the parents, and the students, no good at all. Leave it out and focus on growth and opportunity.
“Learning music is such a great opportunity to learn and practice the growth mindset… Once problem solving comes to fruition, it can apply to all other aspects of a students’ life. For this reason alone, an argument can be made for the importance of music-in-education.” -you get the idea
This response is probably the most near and dear to me, and talks about the growth mindset. It’s hard to summarize something so personally impactful, so I’ll just say that it plays a huge role in my teaching philosophy. All of my teaching and personal practice revolves around the belief that growth is always possible.
If you’d like to look inside my brain for some of the other articles I’ve written about in my academic diary, find them here:
Continuing the Legacy of Joy
An interview with Louise Rossi
“I always loved that we could go out and give people the gift of music.”
Our first big project in this class was to interview a teacher whom we admire and respect. I’m grateful I had a hard time deciding (I’ve had so many great teachers!), but ultimately I landed on my very first violin teacher, Louise Rossi.
Ms. Rossi met my mom as her stand partner in a local orchestra when baby Hannah wasn’t even due for a few more months. She eagerly jumped at an opportunity to recruit a new student- “we can start them really young, you know.” So sure enough, I had my first lesson before I was three years old. It’s actually my earliest memory.
I’ve kept in touch with Ms. Rossi over the years, but haven’t really had an opportunity to sit down and chat with her as a budding teacher. As I teach my first beginning students this year, so many teaching games and techniques have come flooding back to my memory from my first lessons- it’s a wonderful mix of feeling nostalgic and teacher-excitement all at once. I was eager to talk with her and get to know how she approaches teaching and the kinds of things that were most important to her over her 39-year career as a violin teacher.
You can see this in my analyzed transcript of the interview, but the three main ideas that kept returning were joy, relationships, and performance. She always made it a point to make it fun and to prioritize enjoying the violin. Her best memories were when we all hung out together at our Christmas performances and recitals, and she absolutely loved being able to share music with others by performing. These are all things that I would like to prioritize in my teaching as well, along with a few otherthings that I’ve come to appreciate deeply from my time with her.
I’m grateful that Ms. Rossi never settled for anything other than our best. She showed incredible amounts of patience- I’d be stuck on a song for weeks because I wouldn’t fix what she said, and she was perfectly happy to wait for me. I’m grateful that she prioritized posture and tone- other teachers would always notice how well we played in tune and had a solid, reliable setup. And I’m also grateful that she held every student (and parent) to the same standards, regardless of what their long term plan with music would be. She has students who went on to conservatories and med schools, and each one of us received training that set us up for success, regardless of whether or not it is related to music.
This time of reflection and learning makes me excited for my future as a teacher. I have so much to carry with me and so much more to explore on my own. I’ll be my own brand of joyful, relational, performance-oriented, as well as patient, thorough, and opportunistic with my students.
For the full interview audio clip, click here.
Go Forth and Hemiola
About half way through the semester, we were assigned to pick any musical topic and plan a lesson around it. My experience with lesson plans was minimal. I had done something resembling a lesson plan when it came to my musical storytelling programs, but really had no experience when it came to planning a lesson to teach a classroom of students. I was daunted, to say the least. Classroom teaching was something that always scared me because I’m much more comfortable as a social human being when I’m with small groups of people. A room full of adults is intimidating enough, but a room full of kids whose growth and education I am responsible for? Yikes.
So I started this project with a lot of room to grow. I decided to try to tackle rhythm, specifically, hemiola. Part of this decision came from inspiration I drew from Terry Wolkowicz and her Music in Concert program, and part of it came from me picking something I felt semi-comfortable teaching. My first draft was pretty bare bones- a sketch of an idea and sort of a plan. Basically, it was my lesson without any of the details figured out or the logistics for how to make that lesson engaging and effective.
After several iterations of that draft and with the very helpful, thoughtful guidance of my teacher, Josh Gilbert, I got to my final draft. The biggest difference to me would be that I included links to the charts and repertoire I was going to use. I had a clear plan, layout, and techniques that I planned to use and each served a specific purpose.
This project gave me an opportunity to actually use teaching techniques we’ve talked about in class. The one that was central to my lesson was the idea of using multiple representations of an idea, as an attempt to reach every single student in the classroom. I represented my rhythm with objects, colors, pitch, physical activity, syllables, and repertoire, all in 20 minutes, and all under the umbrella of the Larry Scripp lesson model: listen, question, create, perform, reflect (LQCPR).
Considering I really had no experience to draw from, I’m proud of the work that I did to pull this off. I was fortunate enough to get feedback from my class about how successful the lesson was, which I found to be incredibly valuable and on-par with how I felt it went. In the areas of organization, preparation, and conciseness, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. The areas that could improve are my presence and how challenging and engaging the material is. The classroom presence seems like it can be an easy fix. The challenge and engagement aspects will be a little trickier- I’m hoping that my internship with Ms. Wolkowicz next semester will give me some ideas about how to better engage a full classroom of students with different interests and learning styles. Having this information will better focus my time with her and help me target specific aspects of my teaching that can improve.
I experienced a lot of personal growth in this assignment. I learned about myself, about how to actually put a lesson together, and the kinds of things I need to think about throughout the process. I’m grateful to my peers and teacher for giving such constructive and valuable feedback, and I look forward to taking that with me into the next time I present a classroom lesson.
To access the materials I used for my lesson, they can be found here (as well as through the links in my lesson plan final draft):
A Rational Rationale
I’ve done a lot of work for this class and I’ve also done a lot of growth. So far this portfolio has represented that journey, so now I want to represent the end for you.
At the beginning of class, we were told that throughout the class we would be attempting to answer the question, “What is the essential role of music in education?” It was actually our first class discussion. None of us could answer it- I actually snickered and was promptly called out to expand on my snicker (shoutout to Josh). But the truth is that I was so intimidated by the question that I felt uncomfortable. It is such a broad, open-ended question that I’ve been attempting to answer my entire life. What is the point of all this? What’s going to be my elevator pitch to parents who ask why they should spend money on lessons? What would I say to the decision-making politicians of the country if given the opportunity to make a case for keeping music in schools instead of sports?
The first draft of my rationale statement was written shortly after that class. I had a lot that I needed to unpack, so this draft looks more like an outline of ideas than it does an actual argument. Looking back over it after I’ve come such a long way, I’m realizing that my motivation behind a lot of those ideas was to try to hit the areas that I think other people want to hear. They’re the themes that keep coming up when I hear other people make cases for music. There’s nothing wrong with that, and a lot of those points are very useful (I still used them in the final draft), but it was missing points that I came to discover on my own.
Luckily, my time spent on this class helped me get there. My final draft looks a lot different. It has complete ideas, footnotes with articles referencing the information I used, and more importantly, points that I could passionately discuss and argue until my final days on this earth. It has depth and intention, and I feel that it is an accurate representation of the artist, teacher, and scholar I want to be.
To be bitterly honest, I still don’t have a satisfactory answer to the question, “What is the essential role of music in education?” But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it this semester, and I think I’m at least one step closer to getting there with my rationale statement.
I invite you to read my rationale. I invite you to agree with it. I also invite you to oppose it. If I’ve learned anything during my time in this course, it’s that any discussion around music and its importance to education is valuable. Any discussion at all means that it’s still relevant and thriving.
So what do I do with all this, now that I’ve reflected on my growth and change?
I would really like to learn how to apply all these teaching techniques to real life teaching situations during my internship with Ms. Wolkowicz next semester. I want to learn how to seamlessly incorporate LQCPR and multiple representations* into lesson plans and how to make it engaging and challenging for every student in the classroom.
In my own teaching, I want to learn how to encourage the growth mindset into my students- to reinforce habits in them of thinking positively and without imposing limits on themselves. I want them to learn the merits and joys of problem solving and how rewarding finding flow can be.
In my own practicing, I want to keep learning how to be the best example to my students. I want to encourage the growth mindset in my own practice habits and to not impose limits on myself. I want to rediscover the merits and joys of problem solving and to continually encounter the satisfaction I feel when detailed, diligent work comes together to musically say exactly what I intended. I want to be my own student.
*see my “Lesson Plan” tab for information on LQCPR and multiple representations