My goal in the classroom is to create a safe, inclusive environment where my students can take risks, ask questions, and learn confidence. Just as all of our journeys through life are different, every student’s journey through education is as well. Understanding that every brain works in its own way, it is my responsibility to take the whole student into account and not use a one-size-fits-all method of teaching. Teaching purely from a textbook that only presents one methodology may not work for all learners, as it did not for me. Supplementing other materials, both visual and written, and encouraging peer teaching is a crucial part of this. In the foundational theory courses at UConn (Harmony I, II, III, and IV), I utilized this principle by teaching non-harmonic tones with different modalities: a flowchart, a grid, and a purely musical example. Each student connected with one of the three teaching tools, thus supporting their learning. Presenting as a guide rather than as a lecturer, I can facilitate a room for collaboration and collective learning.
Finding multiple ways to explain a concept is crucial, as each brain works differently. What works for one student may not work for the other. In order to ensure comprehension, I will ask my students if the manner in which I presented something worked for them; if even one member of the class replies that it did not, I will describe it in a different way, working with the student through new frameworks that best suit their needs and knowledge base. As undoubtedly every student will have questions throughout the semester, I show patience as a model for the rest of the class. By using universal design, I can meet students where they are and help them reach their potential. This all aids in creating a safe classroom where they can advocate for their education and build trust amongst one another.
Inclusivity in the classroom is important to me, especially with the demographic I teach. I teach mostly first- and second-year college students, and I recognize that they come in with a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. Thus, I aim to present material in my music classes that includes pieces and papers by both people who identify as women or non-binary and people of color. When I taught an Art Song Literature class in Miami, it was imperative that I reflected my students’ backgrounds with the repertoire we studied. By creating a unit on Latin American art song, they were able to see themselves reflected in classical music literature, when often those countries go unacknowledged. Recognizing my students’ diversity through the work I display in turn gives them confidence to try when something initially presents itself as difficult. In doing this, I also show that I value each student and their experiences, regardless of race, gender, nationality, disability, learning style, and beyond.
I use student feedback to shape my continued work in the classroom. This assessment provides an honest look at my skills and flaws, and ensures that I am consistently growing as a teacher. I regularly check in with my students during class to ensure comprehension, but additionally take my end of semester assessments very seriously. As educators, we are never perfect, and I strive to find constant ways to develop as an instructor. I have worked as both a teaching assistant and an instructor of record, the latter of which required me to design and implement my own courses. Using feedback has enabled me to improve my approach towards every new course I teach to increase student engagement and retention. As I have had the opportunity to teach the same course twice, I have made tweaks in projects based on student comments. In a series of diction courses I created, I received feedback that the students would like the opportunity to sing more instead of just listening to examples. Still wanting them to listen to and learn notable singers, I incorporated assigning a song to each student, requiring them to provide both translation into English and International Phonetic Alphabet, and present on their composer before providing coaching through the song. The students then were able to encourage each other as they worked throughout the semester on the assigned piece and they were additionally able to use this for their other classes. To fulfill the listening requirement, I created a semester long project wherein they created a listening log.
Though I have been educated at an R1 university and a conservatory, the majority of the classes I have taught are small. I use this opportunity to mentor my students with the knowledge that they may all need different types of attention. I learn their names and their instruments as quickly as possible, and attend their concerts to show my vested interest in their work and studies. In turn, they do not hesitate to come to office hours or ask for extra help when a concept proves to be challenging or when they want clarification on an assignment. This also includes checking in with them if I notice a lapse in attendance or missing work. As an example, I had a student whose mother became increasingly absent in the time when she was taking my course. As I saw her work slipping and her engagement dropping, I emailed her to see if she wanted to come and chat in my office. This resulted in her opening up to me about her home life and I became - and continue to be - a strong female presence in her life, offering encouragement, accountability, and support. Her work turned around, her attendance improved, and she finished the class proud of herself. Demonstrating that I care about their well-being will ideally influence their own relationships with other people.
With my own research focusing on a gender-analysis approach, I aim to challenge the canon in a thoughtful and meaningful way. In my own work of confronting how we use language to differently describe male and female composers, I encourage my students to think outside of the binary and have less subjectivity towards what makes a piece worthy of inclusion into the canon. In not only completing my Ph.D. in Music Theory and History - in and of itself interdisciplinary - but also completing a Graduate Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, I aim to push boundaries within the field to foster communication and encourage transparency. I bring my own work into the classroom, whether it be by including composers outside of the canon or challenging my students’ preconceived ideas. In doing so, I hope to shape the next generation not to just be great musicians but also great people.