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Got Teaching Philosophy?

MONDAY BYTES – April 21, 2014

Working with people on their teaching philosophy statements is always fascinating because it’s typically a discovery process.

It’s all about articulating who we are as teachers–it’s through writing that we discover what we believe and who we are.

To help write an effective teaching philosophy statement, answer the following questions (from the Univ. of Michigan). Write down your answers, even if all you get are fragments of ideas.

• Why do you teach?
• What do you believe or value about teaching and student learning?
• If you had to choose a metaphor for teaching/learning, what would it be?
• How does your identity/background and your students’ identities/backgrounds affect teaching and learning in your classes?
• How do you take into account differences in student learning styles in your teaching?
• What is your approach to evaluating and assessing student learning?

By struggling with these we learn about ourselves and we typically improve our focus and effectiveness as educators.

I recently came across this from an interview with the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser, who has taught for many years at the School of Visual Arts in NY:

“Why do I teach? Fundamentally, I teach because it makes me feel good. It’s helped me certainly clarify my own objectives. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing someone whose life has been affected by, in a positive way, by something you’ve said. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing somebody change from a sort of condition of inertness or inattentiveness into a mind that begins to inquire about meaning. I think if you don’t do something to project into the future that way, the possibility for total self-absorption and narcissism becomes very much greater.”
- Milton Glaser

While this isn’t a formal teaching philosophy statement, it IS, however, a concise statement of Milton’s mission and motivation in teaching. Most of the teaching philosophy statements I read are nowhere near as clear and specific as this.

For help with your own statement, here are concrete suggestions and strategies, check out this helpful 12 minute video from Susan Yager at Iowa State University.

And to assess a teaching philosophy statement (yours or others’), here’s a rubric.

Consider: Think about the work you’ll do this week, teaching and otherwise. What’s your motivation (beyond the pay) and what is it you want to make happen through your work? Write it down.

As always, I’m interested in your experience with any of this and your feedback!

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Dream big, Plan smart, Live well!

What business are you really in?

MONDAY BYTES – April 14, 2014

Seems like an odd question for musicians, “What business are you in?”

Terry O’Reilly, in his excellent CBC radio show “Under the Influence“ (from the Elevator Pitch episode) says this:

“One of the fundamental aspects of marketing is that a company [think musician here] has to know what business [she / he] is in.

That may sound like a laughable exercise. But it’s not.

Apple is not in the computer business. It is in the empowerment business.

Nike is not in the sneakers business. It is in the personal goals business.

Molson is not in the beer business. It is in the party business.

A company can’t articulate its elevator pitch unless it truly understands what business it is really in.”

How does this apply to musicians? The idea is to think beyond your immediate “product” and focus on what the product does – on the outcome for the audience.

When you are clear about what the need you fill, then your bio, grant proposals, cover letters, booking inquiries, and interviews are all stronger.

I’m a big fan of the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth and their bio starts with:

“Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth is a vocal project dedicated to mining the expressive potential of the human voice. Through study with masters from non-classical traditions the world over, the eight voice ensemble continually expands its vocabulary of singing techniques and, through an on-going commissioning project, invites today’s brightest composers to create a repertoire without borders.”

Did you learn what business they’re in? Not simply the music or the “edutainment” business.

No, they’re business is “mining the expressive potential of the human voice . . . [to help] create a repertoire without borders.”

And here’s the opening of the bio of another terrific ensemble, Gutbucket:

“What happens when you take four highly opinionated, strong-willed and creative composer/musicians and put them in a band together? You might have a volatile problem on your hand…or else you have Gutbucket. The twelve-year-old Brooklyn-based quartet pushes composer-driven, art-rock-tainted chamber jazz into new terrain and boldly proclaims its voice.”

What’s Gutbucket’s business? To push composer-driven, art-rock-tainted chamber jazz into new terrain.

How about this bit of John Hollenbeck‘s bio:

“A drummer and percussionist possessed of a playful versatility and a virtuosic wit. Most of all, a musical thinker – whether putting pen to paper or conjuring spontaneous sound – allergic to repetition, forever seeking to surprise himself and his audiences.”  [italics: my emphasis]

Consider: What business are YOU really in? And do you make this clear in your promotional materials?

The idea is to think beyond the immediate product (your music and/or teaching) and focus on what your skills do for your audiences and students.

As always, I’m interested in your experience with any of this and your feedback!

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Dream big, Plan smart, Live well!


Elevator Pitch Construction Exercise

MONDAY BYTES – April 7, 2014

Terry O’Reilly hosts the terrific weekly CBC radio program ”Under the Influence“ that focuses on marketing.In the recent episode, Elevator Pitches, Terry highlights a wide range of examples from the world of business, books, and movies.

Terry defines elevator pitch as ”a short, concise encapsulation of an idea. But so compelling that it ignites action.”

It’s about distilling an idea to its essence.  Terry says, ”If you can’t short-form it, it means your idea lacks focus and clarity.”

Hard enough to do this with a product, so how can musicians best communicate the essential value and mission of their artistry?

In a branding exercise the smart folks at MIMA Music recently offered at Manhattan School of Music, they had people do a free-writing exercise. The instructions were to write about the first time we were either overwhelmed or transformed by music.

Try it: With pen and paper take just four minutes and write non-stop on the topic. Don’t worry about structure, grammar, or anything – just write about that early experience. If you get stuck, simply write the words that come to mind until you’re back on topic.

Once you’ve done the 4 minutes, look over your writing and circle the most evocative, compelling, or illuminating VERBS. Be on the lookout for verbs that get at what you and your are essentially about as these are often the best material for describing your mission.

Challenge for the week: Listen to the podcast on Elevator Pitches (worth investing 27 minutes), then do the 4 minute free write. Then circle your verbs noting which ones are the most energizing and resonant with your core mission.Then see how you can make use of the energy, ideas behind, and impact of any of these verbs in your promotional materials.

As always, I’d love to hear what you come up with!

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Dream big, Plan smart, Live well!