FOSTERING EFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
My Field III experience was in Garden River, Alberta, a Cree nation on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park. I have travelled and lived in many parts of the world but never before have I felt the impact and importance of fostering effective relationships with a community, their school, and their students as I have during this practicum. Honouring cultural diversity and promoting intercultural understanding is an active and ongoing part of every word that is exchanged and every lesson that is delivered. Part of the success of forming these relationships stem from previous discoveries made during a musical collaboration with other Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and cultural advisors that were brought into a teaching environment where I learned first hand how to listen, learn and respect their teachings.
The following artefacts are; (1) tokens of appreciation from music students I was honoured to work with,
(2) a final Christmas Concert with the Cree students of Sister Gloria, (3) and a sample of a collaboration that aided me on my musical journey with Indigenous Peoples.
After graduating with a BMus I became a professional touring musician, school band clinician/guest conductor, arts administrator and business owner for 25 years before the call of teaching was too strong to ignore. I have made a life of engaging in career-long learning and understand the importance of keeping up to date with multiple industries, philosophies, teaching techniques, trends, and maintaining an awareness of emerging technologies to enhance knowledge and inform practice. Our experience at UCalgary opened doors by collaborating with other teachers to build personal and collective professional capacities and expertise and my time with the Cree community of Garden River has been pivotal in enhancing understanding of First Nations, Métis and Inuit world-views, cultural beliefs, languages and values.
The following artefacts show an example of the importance of collaborating with colleagues using digital storytelling as well as my PURE Award paper that addresses the challenge of teaching Indigenous music in a non-Indigenous classroom.
PURE AWARD RESEARCH
Indigenous Music Exploration
To create a lesson plan that celebrates a collaboration with Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut’ina Nation drumming and singing while realizing limitations and the imposition of Eurocentric music theory systems.
DEMONSTRATING A PROFESSIONAL BODY OF KNOWLEDGE
As a pre-service teacher we spend long hours gaining theory, crafting plans, discovering techniques and building framework that we put into practice with our partner teachers and their students while we absorb the generosity they share through guidance, feedback and modelling. I have developed my own portfolio of tested lesson plans and rich task projects that address the learning outcomes and goals outlined in provincial legislation and programs of study and have experienced the successful creation of effective assessment strategies. My life experiences have given me specialized knowledge of the subject areas I teach and through my own research and understanding of digital technology I’ve been able to create projects that aim to generate evidence of student learning to inform teaching practice through a balance of formative and summative assessment experiences.
The following artefacts demonstrate incredible online teaching and assessment tools such as Noteflight, a project idea for students to learn how to create a soundscape while learning cross curricular lessons in science and math, as well as an inclusive composition assignment giving each student an opportunity to express with or without formal musical training.
Grade 12 composition unit accessing General Music Curriculum including musician appreciation, technology, cross curricular science & math lessons, artistic expression, peer assessment and symposium.
Throughout my own career paths and involvement in the arts I have developed a philosophy of education affirming that every student can learn and be successful. While the experience of my own school learning in rural Alberta leaned more towards a standardized way of education it has been through my travels and practicum experiences that I have learned to incorporate students’ personal and cultural strengths into teaching and learning. My Field II placement was at a school rich with cultural backgrounds and this became an amazing opportunity to find out more about personal musical tastes and how these tastes could help shape our collective musical discoveries and lessons together. Realizing that students all have different strengths and ways of learning has helped me develop projects that address these differences and by embracing the notion of teaching with pop culture where students are encouraged to express their identity and celebrate their differences in a creative space and accepting environment.
The following artefacts include an educational metaphor along with a project assignment framework that utilizes pop culture (protest music) as an access point for students to gain deeper awareness of literacy content while celebrating other cultures.
APPLYING FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS AND INUIT
My recent PURE Award opportunity allowed me to research and move towards a deeper awareness to provide opportunities for all students to develop a knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, the histories, cultures, languages, contributions, perspectives, experiences and contemporary contexts of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. I was given an opportunity to teach and share music online with two Tsuut’ina classes based on my past collaborations with Indigenous musicians and this all contributed to the desire to take my last two practicums at an Indigenous community in Garden River, AB. By fostering relationships with the Cree teacher in the school I was able to draw upon drumming techniques from Cree culture as a collaborative way to teach rudimentary drumming techniques as presented in the Alberta General Music Curriculum. This lead to supporting student achievement by engaging in collaborative, whole school approaches to capacity building in First Nations, Métis and Inuit education.
The following artefacts include a visual essay from our Indigenous Education course of the important role educators play in reconciliation as well as a reflective video on lessons learned from my PURE Award research paper.
Indigenous Education 530
This course is designed to support students to understand the history of Indigenous education, their position within this work, and help equip future teachers with the tools to take on decolonizing and Indigenizing education.
Through the helpful and crucial guidance of our Law & Ethics course at UCalgary pre-service teachers are given a thorough examination of maintaining an awareness of, and responding in accordance with, requirements authorized under the School Act and other relevant legislation. The course work is designed in a way that enables us to work as groups to scrutinize and analyze that the professional practice of a teacher is bound by standards of conduct expected of a caring, knowledgeable and reasonable adult entrusted with the custody, care or education of students. The important notion of “in loco parentis” is a reminder that I am responsible with not only the learning of a parent’s child but also their physical and mental safety. Personally this placed an emphasis on developing a keen sense of observation with quick response in the classroom, in the hallways, and on the playground.
The following artefacts are two group papers on Law & Ethics in which our group was tasked with examining and making recommendations based on challenging scenarios and circumstances.
As I come to the end of a brief but intense after-degree I find myself stopping to reflect on the impact these past two years have had on my life. As a person who has returned to school after several decades of being in the ‘game’ or the ’trenches’ or the ‘real world’ you wonder if you’ve had enough training to take on the responsibility and the duty to become an excellent teacher. To carry the torch that my father carried, and the long strides he took. You can’t help but to look for gaps or imperfections in the mirror and it is difficult not to be somewhat apprehensive, especially during uncertain times as the world around you face a pandemic, budget challenges and strain on our collective well-being. To say the world has changed from when I was in school is an obvious cliché, but it still rings true. I can’t help but to be grateful for my gap ‘quarter century’ for without it I would not have experienced the life I did. But there’s something else I would have missed. A preservice teacher today has had intense academic training in finding new ways of designing the learning process, methods of using interdisciplinary techniques to combine expertise across several fields, systems that address the varying ways that students learn, and new and unsettling knowledge about the people who were on these lands long before my own ancestors arrived. I’m not sure if these concepts were as developed after my music degree in ’96, and my father can’t recall any of this kind of training whatsoever when he certified in ’73. So where are my gaps? As a music major am I equipped to teach outside of a band room? This was perhaps the most startling discovery of my practicum. The answer is ‘yes’, or the answer is ‘if you are willing and put in the time.' I have discovered that teaching isn’t necessarily about knowing a particular curriculum inside and out, it’s about having the passion and fearlessness to discover the wonders that are at the heart of every unit, lesson plan, subject and body of knowledge. It is about being excited to share these discoveries with the youth in as many ways as you can, including the way that you yourself needed and desired to learn when you were young. However, it’s also about being proud that you yourself have mastered something in your time on this planet and recognizing when it is time for you to pass that mastery on to the next wave of humanity. I was excited to realize after reading the various Alberta music curriculums that I have been passionately practicing its content for decades.
The George Bernard Shaw quote is one that musicians often joke about; “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
If I were given the opportunity to rewrite this quote based on my own experiences it would read;
“Those who can, must; and should one day teach how.”