Friday, January 11, 2008

Day 03 "In the Trenches" (shout-out Friday edition)

Friday. Tradition in my undergrad classes is that I walk in on Friday morning, do all the opening class announcements, and then invite a "shout-out for Friday"--at which the kids are expected to scream as loud as they possibly can. One of the most valuable insights I arrived at (belatedly) after starting to teach here is that, with any undergraduate music student population, one of the best ways to establish rapport and communicative style with the young ones is to use a classroom and discipline method that's consistent with what they remember from high-school. In other words, they haven't had much if any college experience (I get 'em on the Monday morning of their first Freshman semester) and so their only models for the classroom and for classroom teachers are the ones they recall from high school. For music kids, that means either "the Marching Band Director" (yell, speak strongly, say "now now now!", count down, move fast, make jokes, discipline swiftly), the Choir Director (play to their egos and their desire to "behave professionally", allow the singers focus-of-attention time, compliment effusively), or the Orchestra Director (manifest high standards, never lose your temper, display a sense of Apollonian Olympian hauteur). They visibly relax when you use one or a combination of these classroom methods--because they know what is expected of them. It also typically means that you can modulate the pressure, intensity, and focus, and allow for both very high concentration but also moments of release.

Hence the "Friday shout-out"--by Friday morning, they're all so tired, so wired, and so ready for the weekend that they practically vibrate in their seats. Starting on time, doing the class business, and then--before the day's lecture, listening, and other focused work--giving them a chance to scream their guts out, actually helps them then settle down and focus.

It's become enough of a tradition anymore that if I'm distracted, or anxious to get to work, and forget to elicit the shoutout, usually at the end of class, some plaintive voice from the back row will say, "uh....Dr Coyote...can't we have a Friday shout-out?"

Today: more on "Isms"--the philosophies and aesthetics that shaped 19th century modernism, and thus 19th century music. Also need to spend a bunch of prep time viewing and reviewing student photos: the first assignment we give them, to get them up to speed with the WebCT online delivery method, is to upload a self-bio and a digital photo. This guarantees that they're logged-in and have gotten their passwords and permissions for the online delivery method, but it also gives them a chance to tell me what they most want me to know about them--and it's sometimes quite useful and even quite touching. And, the digital photo really helps me with names: I have an excellent visual memory but a relatively poor aural speech memory: I can remember virtually anything I've read, or the face of anyone I've ever met, but I can seldom put a name to the face, even if that person told me his/her name 2 or 3 times. It's a problem in the classroom, as both discipline and collegiality are strengthened by use of names.

So we have them upload a digital photo. This has the advantage of allowing the student to pick the image--and virtually all of them have a camera, or camera-phone, and take portraits of selves and friends incessantly--and is invaluable in solidifying my own command of their names. I'll download the photos, retitle with surname-firstname, and stick 'em all in a computer folder. Then, each day just before class, I can scroll through the folder with Windows "thumbnail view", and jump-start my memorization of their names. With 76 in the classroom, it's a life-saver.

In "Office" news, here's a short excerpt from the minstrelsy project's target editor (email from yesterday):

I’d like to go ahead and share these materials, along with the overview of the project you emailed me before we met, to a couple of readers, if you are willing, with the goal of gathering support for an advance contract. I would ask your leave to conduct this review on an exclusive basis.
Jackpot, baby!

[photo: back of Taiyo Sunshine, wearing a T-shirt that reads "Given enough coffee, I could rule the world."]


Gorelets said...

Thanks again for this post... I cited you in an article I recently published in Transformative Works and Cultures:

Chris said...

Thanks for the citation. I look forward to reading the article.