Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Value of Order

I have been thinking lately about how important it is to have order in our lives.  I believe that I am more productive, more settled, and happier when I feel like my life is orderly.  I enjoy my home more when it is neat and orderly.  Yesterday's clothes left on the floor doesn't feel as good to me as clothing on a hanger.  Knowing what I am going to eat for lunch as I leave for work feels better to me than figuring it out when I am hungry at 12:30 after a morning of classes.  Walking into school with strong lesson plans for the day is better than putting a plan together at the last minute or simply winging it.  I like to plan my daily and weekly schedule carefully.  Somehow all of this orderliness keeps me happy and settled. 

I believe that students need this as well.  For years, I have placed a strong priority on students walking in to an orderly, set up classroom.  I never hand out or collect music in class.  I prepare folders ahead of time, outside of class, and collect music the same way.  I think my students appreciate this.  I feel confident that they appreciate the effort that it takes to be orderly and efficient with class-time.  I also believe in strong classroom routines: introduction, warm up, content and related activity, closure.   These routines set up a safe and predictable learning environment.  

The new school year has begun at NCSSM and orchestra is off to a great start. I have truly enjoyed getting to know all of our new junior string players. Rehearsals have been vibrant and productive right out of the gate.  One thing that has stuck me again this year is the importance of seating in the orchestra and the order that seating facilitates.  Remember that my orchestra changes by just about 50% every year. We are a two-year school and when a class graduates, half of the orchestra departs.  Also, I really don't find out how many students will be in my orchestra or instrumentation until the first day of class. This year I am blessed with incredibly balanced sections: 24 violins, 10 violas, 15 celli, and 2 basses.  I hold auditions very early in the year for my students to introduce themselves to me musically, but for our first few rehearsals, I don't really have a seating order.  We sight-read music and students are permitted to sit anywhere they wish within their section.  This year we had three rehearsals before I could establish a seating chart and sections for the group. While those three rehearsals were fine, I must admit that they never really felt "good."  

By the 2nd week of classes, I had been able to review video auditions and begin to establish some sense of "who is in the room" in my mind.  I created a seating order and assigned violin students into violin I and II sections.  (I should say that I do my best to create "even" sections and rely heavily on assigning some of my top players to leadership positions in the 2nd violin violin section.  I also provide opportunities for some of my less experienced players to test themselves with the sometimes more challenging violin I parts.  And, I always have some students that are simply not ready for the upper positions presented in violin I parts.)   But here is the interesting fact:  once students received their section assignment, seating placement, and stand partner, the ensemble seemed to transform quickly. In fact, immediately. Things were more settled.  Students quickly became comfortable and began to dig into the task at hand in a different way.  It is hard for me to clearly articulate the transformation, but I would simply say that it felt more comfortable.  Every rehearsal since that time has had the same feel.  All I can attribute this to is the confidence that comes with order.  Everyone now knows where they will sit, what part they will play, who their stand partner is, and they are beginning to develop a sense of their role as part of the larger group.

This has been a good reminder for me.  Sometimes I forget the importance of routine and order.  Of course, alternately, sometimes it is good to shake up a routine and order. But, order has to, in fact, be established before it can be "shook up." We crave order as humans.  We respond well to predictability and comfort.  This has been a great reminder for me as we begin the new school year.

I wish you all the best as you begin to establish the order in your classroom and rehearsals to start the new year.

Peace.
Scott



NCDPI ArtsR4Life Conference


Yesterday, I had the pleasure and honor of speaking at the 5th Annual ArtsR4Life Conference on behalf of the NC Chapter of ASTA and came home inspired and renewed.  So, just a few words today about the event.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction partnered with Meredith College, the NC Arts Education Leadership Coalition, and the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources hosted the fifth annual “ARTS R4 Life” professional development conference for NC K-12 Arts Educators in Dance, Music, Theater Arts, and Visual Arts.

This was an opportunity for arts educators to develop personalized learning experiences and have cross-sector learning and collaboration around the 4R’s:

  • Rekindle your artistic spirit by participating in hands’-on arts experiences
  • Reflect on the profession through deepening your understanding of the standards to support student learning and growth
  • Reconnect with colleagues and professional organizations
  • Renew your body and mind through expressive, contemplative, and rejuvenating experiences designed to promote your well-being

The conference took place on Saturday, September 8, 2018, and was be preceded by Arts Education Think Tank, Arts Education Coordinators, and Arts Education Leadership Coalition meetings on Friday, September 7th, 2018.  Educators had a menu of options and selected a personalized learning plan for their time at the conference.

I gave my session, "Finding and Maintaining Fulfillment in your Career in Arts Education" during the morning.  In this session, participants consider their level of fulfillment with their work and career in arts education and related factors. I provide a variety of focus areas for consideration and models for identifying and assessing career fulfillment.  Attendees are asked to consider (and perhaps share) their roles as  artists/educators, motivations for embarking on a career in arts education, sense of mission in the school and community, complexity of their work, perspective on workload, busy schedules, and a balanced life. Participants (hopefully) walk away with strategies to find fulfillment in their careers while balancing their personal and professional life.

I gave the session during two different time slots and was thrilled to have over 30 attendees between the two sessions.  Feedback was excellent and I feel my message was well-received.  Some other highlights of the day, for me included connecting with friends, new and old; the Keynote interview with Lauren Kennedy Brady, Producing Artistic Director for Theater Raleigh; A fun kinesthetic opening exercise led by Shannon Gravelle, Director of Choral Activities and Music Education Coordinator for Meredith College; and an inspiring dance performance by the Rainbow Dance Company to open the day.  In addition, it was great to spend some time with my friend and NC ASTA colleague, Bill Slechta, who has been instrumental in establishing NC ASTA's involvement in this conference for the past 5 years.  I was also happy to spend some time with my friend and colleague, Pat Hall from NCMEA offices.

In all, this was a great event and I am so happy that I was able to attend and participate at such a deep level and represent NC ASTA.