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My approach to intermediate/Junior high teaching

I’ve primarily taught in schools where “beginning band” is 6th grade, rather than 5th, and things get crammed rather tightly in a year and they’re right on into serious competition in their second year.  Since starting at Wilkerson, a couple of years ago, I’ve had to adapt my  teaching philosophy a little.

I treat 5th and 6th grade as “beginning band” and I see it as my job to try to ensure that students get a good basic start and not learn things incorrectly.  I do alot of “hand holding” and playing along to reinforce things like practicing techniques so that down the line, students will have the skills to work out technical difficulties on their own without having to devote lesson time to doing the nitty gritty wood shedding later on when there is more to accomplish in lesson time.  That they are pushed along to improve,  but still enjoy  band and playing their instrument.  But not push them overboard where they feel pressured and end up hating playing.

7th grade, as before, things start getting more serious, high school starts to come into view and there are more competitions/pressures.  I still try to not get too gung ho in my teaching.  I like to leave it up to the student to decide the direction they want to take as far as how serious they want to push. Some teachers only think of themselves and want all their students to be the best of the best, seeing them as representing who they are as a teacher based on how many of the top chairs they win.  Teachers like this, tend to only devote s attention to their star students and the rest are ignored as fodder.   The top students risk getting pushed to the breaking point and wind up hating playing and/or the ignored students wind up floundering and become disinterested in music.


When students move on to junior high, I encourage them to take the start of the school year to get a feel for the new surroundings and see what the competition is like and decide how serious they want to take things.  If they want to claw their way to the top of the heap, I'll push them harder and help them reach their goals.  If they are perfectly happy with their position and just want to have fun playing in band without the pressures of trying to be first chair, then That's fine with me.

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