Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lesson Reflection #1- The Purpose of Music

This blog post is the first in a series of lesson reflections that I will write during the 2017-18 school year.  

As a music educator, one of the courses I teach is seventh-grade general music.  I strive to make music accessible and engaging for my students through teachings that relate directly to their lives.  I feel the importance of approaching music not only from a historical standpoint but also through the lens my students experience music in their lives daily.  What does it mean to them?  Why is it relevant to them?

With this in mind, I decided to begin the year with a music appreciation module.  In the past, this included an active listening unit and an introduction to music lesson.  This year I’ve expanded the module to include multiple lessons on the topic of “The PURPOSE of Music”. 

One of my goals this year is to use appropriate grade-level vocabulary and language.  As a teacher who spent years working with high school students, I became programmed to use large vocabulary words.  Last year, when I began teaching middle school (again) I noticed it was necessary to communicate using simpler and more direct language with these younger students.  Sounds easy, but it's an adjustment that takes time to master. 

While searching for lesson materials, I stumbled upon a valuable slideshow in LinkedIn Slideshare called “15 Purposes of Music”.  Although I appreciated the content of original slideshow, the vocabulary was too advanced for my students.  With my goal in mind, I removed and replaced many large words with smaller ones.  Hopefully, you’ll notice the difference in vocabulary when comparing the two.  You’ll also notice that my edited slideshow includes two questions per purpose (slide).  I’ve shared both versions of the slideshow below. 

During the lesson, I paired my students in groups of two and implemented the jigsaw teaching strategy.  I asked each pairing to become experts on one purpose of music (assigned by me) and explained they would help teach their purpose to the class during our next lesson.  In addition to talking with their partners, students were allowed to use the Internet and ask questions of me to clarify understanding before answering questions and digitally submitting their work.

Aside from a short introduction and definition of musical purpose, I did not teach any of the fifteen purposes beforehand.  Granted, I was in the room to guide students, but they were asked to construct their own understanding. 

I gave the students fifteen minutes to learn about their assigned purpose and answer the questions in complete sentences.  This proved to be an adequate amount of time for the activity.  Students enjoyed working in groups of two and conversing with one another. 

The changes I will make for next year include:

·      Modifying my questions so they aren’t exactly the same for each purpose.  I noticed that, although the two questions were appropriate for most purposes, these generic questions were not applicable to all purposes.
·      In addition to a brief definition of each purpose, I will include one resource in an effort to foster independent understanding before students answer questions.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions by commenting below.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Getting your Ed.D- The Great Debate

In a country full of educators who pride themselves on lifelong learning, one would think getting an Education Doctorate Degree is a popular culminating option, yet only about 10% of us actually complete the degree.  I’ve been wrestling with the idea of going back to school (again) for this purpose and wanted to write a post on the topic for anyone in a similar position.  Here is what I've learned about the Ed.D while gathering data to inform my decision.

An Education Doctorate Degree is essentially a research-based degree.  Unlike a Master's program, which covers topics with greater breadth such as Educational Leadership as a whole, this is more focused in nature.  Focused on what?  Focused on whatever topic in education that sparks your individual interest.  Although core classes and some electives exist in most programs, the majority of the work will be self-directed towards a dissertation. I recommend selecting your dissertation topic carefully. Aim to develop a clear vision of what you’d like to research during the program and understand how the topic directly aligns with your career goals. This will set you up for success down the line.

Deciding if this is for you and whether or not to begin your studies at any particular point in life is a complex question.  Here is a list of three "Pros and Concerns" that are guiding me through my decision process.  Hopefully, it can help you navigate yours as well.  

Pros of having an Ed.D Degree

Becoming an Author-  many dissertations have been converted into book form.  If you’ve ever wanted to write and publish your own book, the comprehensive research required during an Ed.D program could make that dream a reality. 

Salary Benefits- if you get your Ed.D early in your career, you will likely make a return on your investment and profit as a teacher by moving up the salary scale.  Administrators may or may not be compensated for this additional education (depending on your location and district).

Career Advancement- including an Ed.D on a resume will validate you as a highly qualified candidate for many jobs in higher education, administration, educational consulting, etc...

Concerns of an Ed.D Program

Heavy Workload- this degree will demand your attention and cut directly into your free time and weekends. Reading and writing assignments for an Ed.D will be ongoing. You will need to master time-management.

Expensive- depending on which college you attend, this degree will likely cost $35,000-$75,000. This is a large investment that must not be taken lightly.

Not Required- this degree is not necessary in order to move into administration at the K-12 level. MANY educators move up the ladder into administration without possession of this degree.

What is your experience with this degree type?

If you have an Ed.D, did the degree propel your career to new levels?  

Please comment below. All opinions welcome.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Top 5 Education Podcasts

Podcasts or “audio blogs” have become quite popular over time, and for good reason.  This free and convenient source of media provides an ideal format for anyone with time to listen.  Research suggests that roughly 100 million Americans have listened to at least one Podcast by the age of twelve!  Have you ever listened to a Podcast? If not, I've included a YouTube video at the end of this post to help get you started.

As a lifelong learner with a significant morning commute, I’ve found Podcasts to be a consistent source of motivation and stimulation while on the go.  I regularly listen to episodes on the topics of education, leadership, technology, productivity, and health.

There are an array of choices available to educators, but not all shows are created equal...  Some have too many advertisements, some have been created solely to promote a product, and some are just plain boring.  I’m writing today to save you time and help steer you in the right direction on your listening path.  

First and foremost, I’m going to recommend you check out The Education Podcast Network.  This resource is a great starting point for any educator looking to discover relevant content.  Many of the shows featured on their website are hosted by successful teachers, administrators, and thought leaders on a wide variety of topics.  Some of the Podcasts I list below are part of this network and some are not, but for newbies, this is a great starting point to education Podcasts.  

In no particular order, here are my top 5 favorite Podcasts.

  1. Better Leaders Better Schools-  As a young principal, Daniel Bauer has created a network for school leaders to come together and learn from one another.  His Podcast guests explore leading with courage, changing school culture, and relationship building.  As a host, Daniel comes across as a bright individual who doesn’t take himself too seriously.  This makes for an informative and enjoyable listening experience.  
  2. The Fat-Burning Man-  Don’t be fooled, the title of this show refers to “mankind” and has a lot to offer any gender.  I stumbled onto this Podcast a few months before my wife and I got married.  The show is hosted by nutrition and fitness guru Abel James and centers around healthy diet and lifestyle choices.  I originally began listening to lose a few pounds weight but have learned a lot about healthy sleep habits, exercise routines, and happiness.
  3. The Cult of Pedagogy-  This Podcast focuses on strategies, classroom management, education technologies, and best practices specifically for teachers.  Jennifer Gonzalez is a down-to-earth and witty host that brings practical advice directly to teachers all over the globe in 20-30 minute weekly episodes.
  4. Master Leadership-  This show invites its listeners on a journey seeks to take their leadership skills from average to extraordinary.  Guests on this show are typically battle- tested educational leaders who share their philosophies, stories, and leaderships tips for the sake of our youth.  I recently had the pleasure of being a guest interviewee on this show.  If you’re interested in taking a listen, I’m on episode #51.  
  5. TWiT-  This Week in Tech is the flagship Podcast hosted by Leo Laporte and a staple in the technology world.  Laporte generally always has a panel of 3-4 tech experts alongside him to discuss the hottest tech stories each week.  This show is not directly related to education, but, technology is one of my passions and many of the emerging technologies they cover end up in our schools.