Canandaigua City School District
September 2006 - Present

Where I Am Now
After completing my second summer in Ithaca, I was looking forward to the start of a new year with great excitement and anticipation.  A new job, and my fifth year of teaching music.  The sadness associated with leaving my former students, parents, colleagues, and friends was subsiding and I quickly found myself with an entirely new teaching position.  I was the new Symphonic Band director at Canandaigua Academy.  I had the opportunity to focus all of my efforts on a much larger ensemble than I was accustomed to working with.  Instead of a mere 25 students in grades 9-12, I now was working with 71 students everyday.  The group was comprised of primarily underclassmen and was a very diverse group of learners.  

Day one, September 2006; this felt like an entirely new world.  There were hundreds of eyes watching me work.  This district graduates as many students per year as my last school district had enrolled in their entire K-12 population.  The numbers were overwhelming at first, and furthermore I was now working amongst other music teachers in a music department.  (And they all had at least 20 more years of teaching experience then me!)

Rewinding just a bit to August 2006, I found myself attending a week long new teacher orientation.  We  met for 5 straight days and discussed district policies, curriculum, but perhaps of greatest interest: teaching philosophies, suggested teaching styles, and learning theories.  As I sat and juxtaposed this orientation to the 1 hour welcome chat that I received in Canaseraga, I became a little intimidated by the depth of the presentation.  Canandaigua was making it clear that they were in the “business” of teaching and that we needed to understand what was expected of us.

The orientation was very concise and was mostly concerned with imparting the philosophies of the district upon us.  One statement that made me a little uneasy however was that “a student’s education in our school district should not be a product of what their teachers know, however a product of what our curriculum says they should be taught.”  After what I can safely say was a summer of educational enlightenment in Ithaca, I felt stifled!

Certain portions of their presentation however were 
more intriguing as I had just learned about some of 
the same concepts in my summer classes.  It was 
invigorating to see some of my coursework coming 
to life in this way.  One idea that the district heavily emphasized was incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy as a way to further the learning process.  And thus, I began the new year by considering Bloom’s Taxonomy and incorporating many of its keywords into my rehearsal plans.

Achieving Silences/In Search of Teachable Moments
Despite my excitement to begin a year of more effective teaching, I learned quickly that I was not as good at harnessing the minds and attention spans of 70 children as I had hoped.  While my classroom behavior problems were not nearly as severe as what I had experienced during my first year of teaching, I was still surprised at how much resistance I faced.  I thought that this school was going to be different!  While attempting to achieve the necessary silences required to create music, I found myself reminiscing about my first year of teaching.  Drawing upon my previous teaching experiences and combining them with some of my new ideas about shaping student actions, I eventually resolved the resistance and thus made way for teaching. (Behaviorism)

My department head, and director of the other school band, was a tremendous asset to me as I began to understand the new culture that I was teaching in.  He frequently invited me into his rehearsals with the hope of modeling teaching scenarios that he felt would be effective with my students. (Vygotsky, learning by imitation) Having never been part of a music department, I felt serious pressure to replicate many of his classroom tactics.  It took me almost half of the year however, before I realized that in order for me to be most effective, I needed to find myself and discover who I wanted to be instead of imitating my colleagues.

Knowing What They Know
Working a small school job offers you certain advantages, such as being your own feeder program.  At my new job however, I was the fifth band director that many of these students had worked with.  Having little prior knowledge to my student’s experiences and accomplishments, it was difficult for me to understand their capabilities and skill sets.  They were very different from the students in my old school district and so was their culture.

Many of them played with very nice tones and were aware of their intonation.  Many of them also demonstrated good executive skills on their instruments.  The big surprise however came when I challenged them to read music.  I found that there was a general deficiency when it came to decoding rhythm.  I light heartedly approached the problem with my students and explained that “spoon feeding” was for babies and that I was going to hold them accountable for reading and performing rhythms on their own.  My belief about students rehearsing and performing music is that they will be more apt to have a meaningful and significant musical experience if they are actively thinking about and personally contributing to what they are doing. (Ausubel)  My job will never be to give all of the answers, I will not be “the giver.”

Between achieving classroom control, understanding their abilities, and finding myself as a new teacher in this community, this has certainly been an exciting new chapter in my life!
Associated Links
Canandaigua City School District
High School Band Homepagehttp://www.canandaiguaschools.org
It was invigorating to see some of my coursework coming to life in this way.