A Philosophy of Teaching
By Steve Brew
Why write a philosophy of teaching?
Teaching is a complex art that requires lots of research, planning, and strategizing, so you can’t just wing it. Students can always tell the difference between a teacher who has a plan and one that does not. I used to be a teacher without a plan, and it didn’t go very well. I’ve since developed a philosophy of teaching, which articulates the areas of instruction which I feel are most important. This philosophy informs everything I do, and has made me a better, more focused teacher. The following list contains the four beliefs that comprise my personal philosophy of teaching.
I believe that practicality is the most important aspect of education. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines practicality as “relating to what is real rather than to what is possible or imagined.” In this respect, I feel that teaching should not merely emphasize a particular subject matter, but the application of a subject matter. If a student is shown how to apply concepts or skills in a constructive, meaningful, and pertinent way, then he or she has a greater chance of retaining and using these skills once they have left the classroom. Some teachers believe that it is the student’s duty to find the relevance in what they learn. I believe that it is my duty as a teacher to espouse subjects that will be useful to the student in the long term, as well as to show students the meaning behind ideas whose relevance are ostensibly untenable.
2. Goal Setting
Goals are the single most important consideration of a relevant education. I always start with a vision of the end. “What do I want my students to take away from this class? “What can I offer my students that will be useful to them outside of their lessons?” “How can I make this material relevant to my students in the long-term?” Once I have a vision of the end, I plan backwards until I get to the beginning. When I have reached the beginning, I am ready to teach.
How does a music teacher emphasize practicality? What is the real-world application of an art form whose relevance in society seems to be fading? As an instructor of college music students, I would address these issues by emphasizing an entrepreneurial mindset. I would like my students to have as much instruction in entrepreneurial studies as they would in theory, history, or instrumental instruction. Those musicians who proactively pursue new and innovative developments in music will be most successful. Dr. David Cutler, one of the leading scholars in music entrepreneurship, expresses a similar sentiment. He writes, “The ways in which people receive their music is changing, as are the types of experiences they seek, and that provides an exciting opportunity. Musicians who broaden their outlook and approach have distinct advantages.”
4. Musicianship, Independence, and Technique
As a guitar instructor, I strive to develop three core values in my students: independent musicianship, sound technique, and exposure to a variety of styles. Independent musicianship is crucial to the guitarist because guitar is a solo instrument. It is important that my students think cogently about structure, phrasing, and harmony in constructing their own unique interpretations. A sound technique is essential for any musician, especially those studying the guitar. Building technique through method books, exercises, and scales will allow the student to play with fluidity and ease. Finally, a wide breadth of repertoire will help to produce a more consummate musician. Musicians who can play in a variety of styles will be better equipped to deal with the music of our time; especially as contemporary music amalgamates folk, pop, and jazz traditions.
3. An Entrepreunerial Mindset
Thanks for taking the time to read about my teaching philosophy! I would encourage you to come up with your own, as it will help provide clarity and focus in your teaching. Feel free to leave a comment below!