I love the music teacher at my step-kids’ school. I love her so much, I’ve thought about moving three miles up the road just so my bio-child would be able to have her as a teacher. She is passionate about music and she is passionate about teaching, plain and simple.
As a parent I’ve appreciated the joy she has brought to my children. As an art educator I have stood in awe of the work she does, day after day, year after year, keeping the heart of her school beating strong. And I often wonder what lessons I can take from her example to share with the visual art teachers I work with. Here are a few.
Gretchen’s classroom is a place set apart from the rest of the school. It epitomizes the statement I posted yesterday that the artroom should look and feel different from the rest of the school. It is thoughtfully filled with instruments of all kinds and there is music making and appreciation going on there before, during, and after school. When you walk by, you want to be a part of the action happening inside.
Gretchen effectively serves as Artistic Director and Executive Producer of her program. She finds every opportunity she can to weave music into school-wide programs, she hosts after-school clubs, and she directs a series of performances each year. Tradition is a word Gretchen uses a lot, and one which has real meaning for her and her community of past, present, and future students, colleagues, parents. Children look forward to participating in the school’s musical traditions. Beginning in kindergarten, for example, students see fifth and sixth graders lead the costume parade on Halloween through Samba drumming. They can point to those performers and say, “I want to do that someday.”
Since I left my job teaching high school art classes, I have often found myself longing to return to that position. I miss the daily interaction with students, but most of all, and more and more the longer I am away, I miss the space and time to explore ideas and materials with students. I tell folks all the time that to have a classroom is to have power. Gretchen understands this and it shows in her teaching practice.
* NOTE: Should the use of the word “damn” in the title of this post surprise or offend you, please know that it is a reference to the nickname for The Ohio State University Marching Band TBDBITL (The Best Damn Band in the Land)