Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Called to Authenticity

I was inspired by this quote in a book I'm currently reading:

"In what ways are you allowing the next generation to see authenticity in your life?...Do you realize that your walk with God could affect many future generations?" ~Beth Moore, "Breaking Free"

As a Christian, I see my role as teacher as so much more than that! I'm a teacher, yes, but I'm also an ambassador of the Gospel, and a witness to Christ in every lesson that I teach.

Does God come up in every lesson I teach? Of course not, but my actions can speak just as loudly as my words! I want my students to see the attitude and actions of Christ in my life in the way that I relate them on a weekly basis.

I've been challenged by these words to take my call to authenticity more seriously as I plan for my lessons, and look for ways to witness to my students every day! By being faithful and planting the seeds, who knows what kind of a harvest God will reap in the lives of my students?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shamrock Interval Builder Cards

We still have 1 week left to our February Valentine Note Challenge, but I'm already planning ahead for the month of March when we'll be working on emphasizing intervals.

I've got several ideas for some fun activities to help my students become better interval readers, and here's a look at the first one. I designed some basic interval drill cards that we'll be playing with over the next few weeks. The cards drill basic intervals of steps and skips, then 2nds all the way up to 7ths.

I'll be printing these out and building intervals with my student using my note gemstones. Here's how I plan to use the cards:

Step 1: Decide which intervals to drill depending on the students' level and/or intervals that might need a little extra work(beginners might just use the step and skip cards).

Step 2: Start by having the student pick a stone and place it on the left leaf.

Step 3: Have the student quickly 'complete' the clover by choosing the correct gemstone for the interval specified
The cards are available on my Printables page under "Flashcards". Any other ideas on how these cards could be used? What fun St. Patrick's Day activities are you planning in your studio?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentine Note Challenge Update

My beginning students are halfway through the monthly Valentine note challenge, and they are all loving it! This week, every student earned more hearts than the last, and several students came into their lessons asking when they were going to play the "note game"!

Here's a look at our chart so far:

As you can see, it's going to be a close race! I'm really excited about how seriously all my beginner students (even those who aren't my best practicers) are taking the challenge.

Have you been using any special themed incentives for the month of February? How's it going so far?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Words That Warm the Heart

I don't think that many of my students realize it: the power they have to make or break my day. I try not to let them have that kind of power over me, but as a teacher, I want so desperately to be an effective, inspiring, excellent teacher and I often let the reactions and comments of my students determine whether I've succeeded at that or not. Can any other teachers identify?

How do you feel when you ask a student to play through a certain passage again, only to sense their resistance to your suggestion through body language or even a spoken comment. Does your sense of worth sink when a student asks "How much time do we have left?" in that hopeful tone that suggests they'd rather be anywhere than on the bench, or react to the end of the lesson with a comment like, "Oh, good!" or "Yay!"

I've experienced these, and many more scenarios that, if I allow them, make me feel like an ineffective, uninspiring teacher. Words can hurt. Children often lack that sense of tactfulness that makes those of us who are more 'mature' think before we speak. The results, as I'm sure you know, can be some pretty honest comments! ;)

But if that's true for the negatives, it's also true for the positives. There's nothing like the smile that breaks over a student's face when they finally experience success over a tricky passage in their music. It's hard to beat the excitement and enthusiasm of an especially hard worker who comes to a lesson barely able to contain the excitement to share what he's learned that week. The little smiles and giggles that break out when we're goofing off a bit during lessons bring a sense of warmth and joy to my heart that make all the negative comments easier to bear. Like yesterday evening, when a student commented in the middle of the lesson, "You're fun!" After a long afternoon/evening of lessons, that comment had the power to give me the extra boost of energy I needed to finish out on a positive note.

There will be days of disappointment in any job, but, in my mind, the rewards of being a teacher and hearing those little words that warm the heart make it all so worthwhile!

Have you experienced encouragement from your students recently?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Are You a Martha Stewart Fan?

I have to admit...I am :) I receive Martha Stewart Living and Whole Living and love all the ideas on organizing, decorating and space management (I'm kind of obsessed with organizing- just ask my husband ;) ).

Anyway, the facts that I like Martha Stewart AND organizing made me really excited when I received an email from Staples about their new line: Martha Stewart Home Office! I was there in an instant, taking a look at all the great products available. If you're interested, you can follow this link for more information.

Something else the email from Staples contained was notification of a Martha Stewart Daily Giveaway for February: one different item each day from her new line! I've been entering every day in hopes that I might win something. Follow this link if you're interested in entering.

While we're on the topic of organization, is there anything you've done in your studio for 2012 that's worth sharing about!?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Latest Addition to the Home Studio

Look what's been going on in my studio this week:

I finally got a Piano Life Saver System installed on my piano! I've been wanting to do this ever since I purchased my new piano over a year ago, but the piano purchase was enough of an expense that I needed to wait for a time to save up for the system.

Finally, with the help of a little Christmas money, I was able to schedule an install of this system. I am thrilled that it's finally installed and running. There were a few hiccups in getting the system set up, involving drilling holes in my piano so that the tubing could fit:

but I know that this will really help extend the life of my instrument. Maryland is famous for it's hot, humid summers, and we don't run our air-conditioning system all that often, so I really wanted to be as proactive as possible in protecting my piano.

Have you taken steps to get a similar system on your instrument? Do you think that this is a good investment? I'd love to hear your opinions!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Loving Those Studio Surprises!

I absolutely LOVE it when my students surprise me with little tidbits from their week. Sometimes it will be a song they composed, other times they'll share about something they learned in music class at school, other times it will be a project that they undertook just to surprise me- their teacher!

I had one such surprise yesterday evening when a student proudly showed me this transcription of a song I'd taught him by rote.

While practicing the song over the week, he decided to try and see if he could write it out! I'll confess that it took me a bit to decipher his transcription, but I was really pleased to see that even though all the rhythms weren't correct, he had all the notes in the correct places. He had even gone one step further in the creative process and added a special ending onto the piece!

What 'surprises' have your students brought to their lessons recently?!

Monday, February 6, 2012

February Activity: Valentine Note Challenge

I'm starting lessons off this month with a fun note challenge! Over the month of February, students will be seeing how many hearts they can earn.

I'm using Susan Paradis's cute Valentine Notes worksheet as well as her Steal a Heart cards for the challenge. Each student is timed for one minute. As I show them one of the heart cards they have to:

1. Name the note
2. Play the note
3. Place a candy piece on the correct note on the Valentine Note sheet

After the minute is up, we count up how many candies they've earned, and they draw the correct number of hearts on this simple chart I created. They also get to keep the candy!

As you can see on the chart, we'll be tracking all through February, and the student who gets the most hearts will get a special prize. Not to mention candy every week!

What kinds of fun seasonal activities are you doing for February?!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spring 2012 Practice Incentive 1 Month Update

After 4 weeks of lessons, I took a look at my student's progress. While not every student chose to participate, and some students who chose to participate aren't finding motivation from the practice incentive, many more are taking the contest VERY seriously and putting forth consistent effort from week to week, which absolutely thrills me!

Our first contest rewards weekly practice time- every 100 minutes and they get to add a little pom-pom to their caterpillar. The leader has 4 segments at this point.

The next contest rewards days of practice, as the butterflies move along the garden path for each day they practice. Up at the top of the same picture, several flowers have already taken root in the garden of music as students have memorized their songs- they receive a flower for each song memorized.

Overall, I've been pleased with how quickly my students have jumped on board with this contest, and with how many of them are taking the contest seriously- I've got quite a competitive bunch! ;)