Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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A Small Tribute
Friday, September 25, 2009

When we first started blogging here at class-dismissed, we promised that we would take time, every so often, to honour some of our own teachers. So I thought I'd take some time now to do so. Interestingly, this first tribute is actually to a peer rather than someone like Dr. Morrison (though I should probably find some time to pay tribute to him at some point). This is how it came about:

I've always enjoyed singing as a recreational activity. I mean, I never deluded myself into thinking that I was all that good. I knew I wasn't tone-deaf (obviously, being a musician in other capacities) but I also recognize a good voice when I hear one and I know I don't have a spectacular voice by any stretch of the imagination. I always wondered about whether or not a good singing voice is something people are born with or if it's something we learn. So as you can imagine, my music ed teacher piqued my interest when she told us we would be partnered up, one-on-one with one of our classmates, and that we would practice our teaching technique by teaching each other. Enter Kate, who would teach me some beginner techniques in singing; I, in turn, would teach her some beginner techniques in playing the drums. Yeah, that last part was interesting - I didn't think I would be called upon to put my drum-playing skills into use in music ed class.

We've had 2 lessons so far (and we're going to have our last one next Tuesday). To be honest, I think I'm getting more out of her lessons than she is from mine. I know that she's definitely getting better at playing the snare but if she wanted to truly utilize what she's learned, she'd have to do a lot more practicing, just to get to a point where playing the snare would be of any practical use to her. Such is the learning curve of learning an instrument. 3 short lessons won't be enough to be of any practical benefit except maybe in the sense of inspiring someone to continue learning/practicing.

Vocal training, though, is a little bit different. And that's mainly because I've been "practicing" all my life, in the sense that I've been "singing" - to use a refined term for what I do when I chant along to songs I like - for years and I will probably continue to sing for years to come. And in these 2 short lessons I've had thus far, I have noticed a marked improvement in my voice, just from applying certain techniques Kate has taught me. From breathing correctly, to posture, to sound-generation, to embouchure, to using my hands to mimic rib expansion... I've never had anyone point these things out to me before. But man, what a difference they make.

Now, I'm not saying I've suddenly turned into a great singer, but I have definitely made some strides, and I think that Kate deserves a lot of credit for that. There's a term in education called "scaffolding," where a teacher is always challenging you in such a way that calls for you to improve without making you feel like you're called upon to do too much at a time - and she has done exactly that in the 2 lessons I've had so far. When I think about everything I've done at the faculty of education, those lessons were definitely the highlights of this past week. When you look forward to going to a class at 6:30 PM on a Thursday night, that says something. So I take my hat off to you, Kate, even though you didn't really have a choice in the matter.

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Jonathan posted at 1:03 AM - Comments (1)


Jon, this is amazing. I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying your lessons and giving credit to your peers. I completely agree that these lessons have been really helpful and that 3 lessons is far too few. However, the short amount of time we have to give the lessons is a real eye opener to how complex your own instrument may really be (especially when you consider that the length is usually the time given is about the same amount of time I take to warm-up).

As for your lessons being less valuable, I highly doubt they are. If you are noticing an improvement then that means you must be doing something that works. While you've been singing (notice the lack of quotation marks... we really need to get past the notion that it's only singing if you sound like a pro) outside of class, Kate may have little experience with the snare drum. Drums really are a whole different animal and it takes a certain amount of coordination to learn them. I think this may be the perfect example of a person realizing that their instrument is more complex then they perceive it to be. Be proud of what you have accomplished in your lessons.

By Blogger Ashley, at September 25, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

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