Rachel Gunderson recently completed her Level 3 SongWorks Certification Teaching Practicum to become a SongWorks Certified Educator. Here she shares her reflections on how the experience has enriched her teaching practice.
Participating in this year-long SongWorks practicum course has made me a better teacher and helped me become more confident in my implementation of SongWorks principles and practices. By consistently practicing and analyzing my implementation of these practices, my classroom has become a more intentional space of musical experiences and learning. In addition to the strategies, tips, and tricks that I learned from Betty Phillips, Alice Nordquist, and others along the way that have made teaching more meaningful and fun, I have gained valuable insights about myself, my students, and how I can use SongWorks to our benefit.
Because of my participation in this practicum course, I have become more consistent in several teaching habits that align with SongWorks principles. For example, I consistently have children choose who will have the next turn, instead of making the choice myself, giving them more power in their learning, and giving me more insight into who is often chosen and who may be left out. I more often give my students paper scores, or have them create their own, as I have learned that students need and want to touch things while they learn and practice. I have students move around the room more during lessons, and I have created more structured expectations in different learning formations around the room. I learned to be more mindful of my students’ needs on a class-by-class, and student-by-student basis, rather than thinking of and planning for them primarily by grade level. All of these seemingly small adjustments have made large impacts in my classroom and my students’ learning. They have helped me focus on my students’ responsiveness to music (SW2: Principle 1) and empower them to take more responsibility in their learning (SW1: Principle 3). Through these changes I believe my classroom has become a more engaging learning environment and a safer place for my students to be vulnerable, take risks and demonstrate their skills and understandings (SW1: Principle 2).
One of my biggest takeaways from this practicum experience is that just as I want my students to try new things in order to learn, I also need to be willing to try new things that are beyond my realm of familiar teaching strategies. At the beginning of the year, writing SongWorks lesson plans sometimes took hours, required looking back frequently at notes, and needed lots of (much appreciated) suggestions to improve them and make them more functional. As I put in the time to thoroughly plan lessons to submit for the course, I found myself more easily and frequently applying the same principles and ideas into more and more of my lessons across the board. Now, after putting in the time and effort to try and practice new things, planning lessons with SongWorks in mind still takes lots of intentional planning, but the work of scaffolding lessons and curating meaningful musical experiences is far less labor intensive, and much more natural. If not for pushing myself in this way, that progress and learning would have come much more slowly, if at all.
My teaching and my classroom environment have improved significantly because of the way I’ve learned to teach and plan, but perhaps the most impactful truth I learned this year was the significance of having mentors and a community to support personal growth and progress in teaching. No amount of studying or even self-reflection could have given me all of the ideas and insights that were shared with me by mentors and friends. I deeply value the SongWorks Educators Association, not only for its inspiring principles and well-researched practices but especially for its community of inspired educators who are overwhelmingly supportive of one another and genuinely committed to personal growth. I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow through being a part of that community for a long time to come.
Bennett, P. D. & Bartholomew, D. R. (1997). SongWorks I: Singing in the education of children. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Bennett, P. D. & Bartholomew, D. R. (1999). SongWorks II: Singing from sound to symbol. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.