Thursday, January 08, 2009

Day 02 (Round III) "In the trenches" (what do the best teachers do? edition)

Very, very jammed-up day today:

to bed around 12:15 last night;

6:00am can't sleep, get the hell out of the rack and get my elderly ass over the to the cross-trainer elliptical machines at the Rec Center, which is (fortunately) now back on its regular during-the-semester schedule and actually opens that early;

6:45am head home (still goddamned dark out--I hate living at the far western end of the time-zone), feed Mister Man "Second Breakfast" (cf Lord of the Rings), gently wake Dharmonia, who's coping with the same damned sinus infection as half our building, make our own breakfast, clean up, get to school by around 8:15am;

9-10:30am executive committee (basically, advisory-to-the-director committee) meeting. Attempt to grapple with the quite-astonishing asinity of directives from an outside-our-college committee ("a committee is a beast with no head and four hind legs");

11-11:45am consultation with student (classical guitarist who's getting seduced to the Dark Side of the mando-family);

12:30-1:50pm first meeting of upper-level/graduate "American Music" seminar, a course in my own area of research, which I've taught several times before, and which (as a result) I know real well--but which I am entirely re-writing this time around;

2:00pm Summer Reading Program committee meeting--which, fortunately, got its business done in about one-fourth of the allocated 60:00 minutes;

2:25-3:30pm cram lunch while editing, publishing, and uploading the Breeze (Flash-based) slideshow version of the seminar's Powerpoints, and writing the "further to today's class" email. I do this with each meeting of every class I teach in a given semester, so that the kids in each class prepare the material (mostly reading and listening) in advance, encounter it again during the session, and then see my own summary (email) and the same slideshow (Breeze) of the material just addressed. This helps keep them--and me--on track. But it's quite a juggling act: more-or-less have to get the email and the Breeze slideshow done immediately after the meeting, or I fall behind and lose track of what the heck we specifically covered.

Around 4:15pm, collect Dharmonia and head home. Feed Mister Man again (or possibly twice more), cook dinner, watch the BCS Bowl game (who the hell do you root for when you don't really like either?!?) while spending the Last...Five....Hours...writing more stuff: critique, promotional materials, program notes, schedules, three courses' next lectures, getting ready to review Ph.D. candidate's latest draft and colleague's Irish music textbook, and, the material below:

As a member of our Teaching Academy (basically, a campus-wide organization whose mission is to recognize, facilitate, and reward top-notch teaching--don't know how the hell I wound up a member (Groucho: "I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me as a member!")--I've been asked to deliver a presentation in their monthly series entitled "What Great Teachers Do." I am highly self-conscious about being numbered in these ranks--I attend Academy colleagues' presentations whenever I can, and am consistently gobsmacked (read: "impressed and intimidated") by the insights, expertise, and imagination of what they do--but, one of the Academy's full-time staffers is a DMA music recipient who had to sit through various of my seminars and coachings. So she is (perhaps unwontedly) persuaded that I have insights to offer. Have been scuffling and procrastinating supplying her with a title and descriptor, because--God's honest truth--I couldn't really conceptualize ways in which the (I think) effective but (I know) idiosyncratic classroom techniques I employ might translate beyond the music history classroom.

But the deadline was looming, even though my DMA person was being very tactful and patient, and I really didn't want to hang them up with their promotions. So I had to sit down and try to grind out something that was (a) honest about what I do, despite the temptation to razzle and dazzle and try to seem cooler than I am, (b) provide actual value to people who are already really good teachers in other disciplines, and (c) provide at least a modicum of entertainment (nothing is more boring--or less apposite for non-musicians--than a musicologist who's in love with his own approach).

Below, I'm pasting in the results, in the approximate stages at which I created them, beginning with the rough-ready-and-random notes I started from, including the various random bullet final-presentation bullet points that occurred to me as I was beginning to draft the title and abstract, and--finally--the complete title and abstract that I sent in about an hour ago.

As my buddy Steve-the-Plumber (about six times tougher and eight times realer than that asshole Joe-the-"Plumber") would say, I'm kind of "showing my ass here"--this isn't a particularly pretty process, but perhaps it might provide encouragement, or at least consolation, to those of you out there who might sometimes likewise struggle in getting from request to final result.

To wit:

First notes

Base in world-music rhythm presentation? Emphasize that the point here is that interactivity results not only from subject, but also from mindset. What are the archetypal approaches to teaching? How can we re-engage with this old patterns of teaching-learning, to which students will viscerally respond even if they haven’t previously encountered.

The power of patterns, templates, consistent procedures; modeling (thought processes, modes of interaction, personal conduct); tagging

Culture <-> context; “traditional” methods; the power of narrative arcs (chronological or otherwise); context reveals content—content reveals context;

Looking for the “reason ‘why’”?

Problem-solving and investigative methods

Observations about 21st century students strengths and weaknesses in processing information; strong: assimilation, subjective interpretation, “deep-reading,” visual sources, “collage”; weak: synthesis, understanding differing experiential perspectives, structural understanding, texts, linear progression

Teaching to students’ preferred multi-tasking mode

Moving through material in a “hyper-card way”

Differing paradigms for “literacy”: exploiting “new” literacy, remediating “old”

Points noted along the way that I want to make in the final presentation

What insights do you consciously convey in your teaching field via non-verbal and/or non-prosodic methods? What insights might you be sub- or unconsciously conveying in similar fashion? How can you make those non-verbal, demonstration-imitation-critique methods more intentional, conscious, and effective.

Based in my own work as a student in non-verbal situations; years later, thinking about how to bring those insights from “outside the Ivory Tower” back into the classroom. Recognizing that post-literate classroom students share some key weaknesses—and strengths—with pre-literate learners.

Cite past publications and research; practical hands-on training, ways in which teaching outside the classroom and according to oral/aural methods have been brought back into the classroom.
Shaman; knowledge-bearer; teaching with the whole body

Look at past articles, language, demonstrations, blog-posts.

Realizing that writing a daily blog on the philosophy & practice of teaching might be helpful: PRICELESS!

I went back to the blog, clicked on the "Education" tag, and re-read those blog posts that might provide ideas, content, "pegs" upon which to hang the presentation.Here are the links, with my incipit tags to help me remember individual posts' content:

Boom or bust:

Pattern language:

Balancing familiar & unfamiliar teaching styles:



“SHMRG class”:

Chunking-out in-class versus outside-class work:

Presentations as learning tools:

Biorhythms of admonishment versus encouragement:

Schoenberg via context/content:

Wikis and SHMRG worksheets:

Ellington via context/content:

Exams, fear, feedback:

TMEA as IWW street-corner:

Learning-by-ear at TMEA:

Senior faculty forgetting the pain:

Exams to enhance effort:

Discussion sections to lessen fear:

***post-literate and highly visual:

***”I Can Show” diss references:


Critical reading/Summer Reading:

Wiki’s and peer-review:

Here’s the Final Abstract

Pre-literate pedagogies in the (post-)/(multi-)literate classroom

The 21st century undergraduate population has wider access to, and greater expertise with, a range of information sources than, arguably, any other era in human history. In a wired world, in which access to information is comparatively instantaneous, intuitive, and upon-demand—far less laborious, logical, or assiduous—students’ ability to read, learn, process, and synthesize linearly, critically, and individually can be neglected. Similarly, their ability to focus and respond in the one-to-one and one-to-many environments of the college classroom can suffer, simply because they are comparatively unaccustomed to the modes of critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking which the classroom both models and inculcates.

The great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, asked to “define jazz,” paused, and then, in typically gnomic fashion, “I can show it to you better than I can explain it to you.” In its brevity and indirection, Monk’s statement also articulates a significant insight—that certain types of information, insights, and intellectual tools, in a wide variety of teaching situations, can only be taught or learned via non-verbal demonstration-imitation-critique techniques.

This presentation recognizes that 21st-century “post”- (really, “multi-“)literate learning styles both demand, and respond to, diversified teaching styles. It suggests, further, effective and rewarding models can be rediscovered, and recovered, from the most ancient, demonstrative, and narrative teaching/learning sources. Interactivity in the classroom results not only from teachers’ & learners’ agreement upon topics but also upon mindset—from a visceral, tactile, proximate shared response to topic, insight, and narrative. The presentation further suggests that useful models for teaching post-literate students can, unexpectedly, be located in pre-literate knowledge traditions.

Drawing on Dr Coyote’s 30-year experience as a student and teacher, in and outside the classroom, within and beyond the university, in the post-industrial West and around the world, and employing interactive exercises, discussion, and demonstration, this presentation provides examples, anecdotes, tools, strategies, and philosophical premises which can energize teaching/learning across the university curriculum.

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