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Eloise Garland

Kids Know Things Too!

October 14, 2010 at 4:23 PM

 It is unfortunate to say that today I came across a music teacher's fundamental floor - thinking herself as way above the students. I was in school and like usual, on a Thursday, I have a music class for which I study at GCSE standard. There are just 15 in the class, which means it is a nice small group to be part of, and the two teachers who usually teach us manage to get around to everyone throughout the lesson.

But the past month or so, one of our teachers, Mrs Roberts, has been off due to illness, and is not likely to be back for quite some time. Our other teacher, Mr Jones, who usually does practical lessons with us has been teaching us on the Thursday as well as the Tuesday instead. But today, we had a supply teacher. 

Firstly, it took her a whole 40 minutes (out of an hour lesson) to get people settled and to get started on an exercise. 

"Today," she said in her very Welsh accent, "We will be doing a listening exercise. Open your books to page 30 and then we will begin." So, we did just that and she put the CD into the player and one of my favourite pieces - the 'Schindler's List Theme' tune came up, which I just so happen to enjoy playing on the violin myself. Straight away I was pleased and started ticking the boxes, saying it was in a Minor Key, that a violin plays the main melody, that a symphony orchestra accompanies etc. 

When it came to the end of the extract, she asked everyone if there were any points of interest they would like to point out. I put my hand up and got picked, and I explained how I had noticed that although the piece is minor, there was a lovely major chord from the orchestra at the end of the introduction, before the violin solo came in. 

And this, my friends, is what my ranting blog is about today. I then got a lecture from the supply teacher accusing me of being on my high-horse and thinking I know everything about music. There are only 4 in the class who can actually read music anyway, and me being one of them, knew exactly what to write down and say. But this teacher just ranted at me and my 3 other friends for knowing what we were doing. 

"The point of you being here is to help others who can't do what you can," she spat. 

This is where I felt saddened - so many teachers fall into the trap of putting down pupils who can work rather than building them up and helping them. The point of me being in that lesson was not to help those who cannot do the work as easily, but for me to progress and hopefully pass my GCSE with a good grade. I've come across it too many times. Several teachers I have encountered have completely demoralised those who are good at the subject, not helping the pupils. 

Pupils should be brought up and made to feel more confident in themselves. It just makes me realise why so many people (at least around this area), give up playing an instrument after just a term. Teachers out there, bring your pupils up, please! Everything would be so much easier!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 14, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Yikes!  She sounds like she had an agenda directed at the non-musicians.  Your comment was perceptive.  Perhaps what she would have liked was for you to explain why that was of interest and how it affected the piece.

From Irene Yeong
Posted on October 15, 2010 at 5:33 AM

Good to hear that you have a mind and thinking of your own not to be affected by her. The supply teacher needs to know her basic before entering a class.. the basic of teaching.

From John Cadd
Posted on October 15, 2010 at 12:08 PM

Well done Louise. Standing up for yourdelf.  Here`s a true story from my school days . I was about 13 years old.  ( 1956 )  I asked the Geography teacher if the American continents and Europe +Africa had ever been joined together as the shapes matched.  Teacher`s reply was   "Oh John , don`t be so stupid! "  In a full classroom.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on October 15, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Eloise, congratulations for seeing this woman for what she is- small-minded, unhelpful, bigoted in her own little way.  Here's the big secret:  she's probably not too smart and not too knowledgeable about music.  You pointed out something she hadn't noticed or didn't understand.  Rather than asking you to explain it more thoroughly to the rest of the class or starting a discussion on what effect this minor to major shift has, she just slapped you down. 

The world is full of wonderful, motivated teachers who like to bring out the best in students.  There are also a few bad apples in the bunch who are happy to swat away anyone or anything they don't understand or approve of.  If they can put an uppity kid in his or her place, all the better.  Yuck.

From Ray Randall
Posted on October 15, 2010 at 6:07 PM

What a golden opportunity missed to teach a lesson based on your astute observation.

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on October 16, 2010 at 3:30 AM

You're in a good position though. You know a lot, and it can be shared with others (whether that teacher is around or not.) Too bad she acted like that. But that's not only in teachers to act this way.  Some people just put up walls and boundaries where they completely lack understanding. Perhaps they want to keep it that way.  She should be pitied. She lost the chance for facilitating a wonderful discussion and learning something herself.  Well you'd be welcome in my class any time - I would welcome your thoughts for discussion!

From Malcolm Turner
Posted on October 16, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Unfortunately, some teachers seem to think they have to be seen to know everything to be respected. In fact, the converse is true. There's always the "Sir, what is ... " question to which you don't know the answer. Some guess at an answer - the kids won't know if it's right or wrong. Then there's the bluff "Why don't you find out for homework" as if the teacher already knows. In my short teaching career, I found that "I don't know but I'll find out" worked. Of course, you must make sure you do!

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on October 16, 2010 at 3:00 PM

"'I don't know but I'll find out' worked."  Bravo!  It might mean more work for the teacher, but I believe it's the best way.  I once heard someone say that the best way to learn something is to teach it.  This is so true - you don't just have to know it, you have to know it so well that you can explain it to anyone regardless of where they're coming from.

Yes, that teacher missed a wonderful opportunity to teach the class about major and minor chords.  It also sounds like she missed the opportunity to understand them better herself.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on October 16, 2010 at 4:27 PM

A veteran teacher friend of mine made a statement about certain school board members that applies, regrettably, to some teachers as well.  There are some small-minded, not-so-capable creatures who long to become great men and great women in their own small way.  Give them a little power and authority, and they can be pretty insufferable.

I'm not a teacher; but when someone opens a new discussion topic on the board -- e.g., a problem with practice or performance or auditions -- I often think to myself, "This is the same problem I had to deal with back when __________."  I look for ways to share my experience.  It might help the other person.

Then, too, I try to go into a discussion with an open mind -- remembering that I'm not a know-it-all.  Time after time, I will learn at least a thing or two from other posters -- things that I hadn't even considered.

Life goes better for me when I face the new day with this attitude: JIM HAS A LOT TO LEARN TODAY.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 17, 2010 at 6:40 AM

I agree with everyone who said that your supply teacher is insecure and easily threatened.  She needs to have everyone, including herself, believe that she knows more than anyone else.  I'm glad that you are self-confident enough to understand that you are a very good violin student, and the teacher is the one with a problem.

From Julian Stokes
Posted on October 17, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Remember the motto:
Nil illegtimum carborundum
...which roughly translates as don't let the turkeys grind you down.


From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on October 17, 2010 at 1:53 PM

Some people can turn every beautiful, positive thing into another reason for them to assert their own negativity. A shame, glad you are focused on your needs and goals. You sound like your passion for the music runs so deep and have things in perspective. I hope you find many more positive influences than negative in your life and are always able to see the soured for what they are. Be who you are as it sounds like your dedication to music WILL help many just by you following your musical path.

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