Believe in the Power of Great Teachers
By NAfME Immediate Past President Mackie V. Spradley
This article was first published in the March 2022 issue of Music Educators Journal.
In the January 2022 issue of Teaching Music, a story about Historically Black Colleges and Universities featured several excellent teachers who are helping the next generation of music teachers gain the expertise they need to become great teachers themselves. In my career as a teacher and as a NAfME President, I’ve had the opportunity to see a number of superb teachers in action at local, state, regional, and national levels.
Here are some of the most outstanding attributes of these educators:
- Good teachers are good listeners. The ability to see others’ perspectives—whether those of students, colleagues, administrators, or community members—goes a long way toward making a person an effective teacher. The ability to focus on what others are saying is a skill to master!
- Organization reduces stress. Being ready to rock in the classroom, in meetings, or in everyday life can make things easier for educators. An excellent teacher is prepared for not only what is planned for the day but can be flexible. There are always unforeseen occurrences, and organization, patience, goal orientation, endurance, and compassion. In the business world, an hour-long presentation means five hours of preparation. Careful prep makes everything run more smoothly.
- Have high expectations. Being goal-oriented means that you achieve more personally and professionally, and your students will benefit by your belief in what they can achieve. Have hourly, daily, and monthly goals and let your students help with creating these objectives. Write your goals in visible places and ask for ideas in helping to attain them. Inspiration can sometimes come from surprising sources.
- Patience enhances progress. Many brilliant teachers want to move quickly toward success. Remember to be patient with yourself, with students, with colleagues, with families, and with your community. You’ll get there in small steps. Don’t try to eat an elephant in one sitting! Encourage others as you go and remind your students that things that are hard can be broken down into chunks that can be conquered in stages.
- Store up energy for endurance. If you’re going to go the distance, you need to take care of yourself. Enough sleep, a healthful diet, exercise, and taking time to recharge mentally and spiritually can make all the difference in your capacity to do your job well and enjoy the journey. A five-minute stretch break can help you go for another hour when you’re starting to feel drained.
- A cheerful outlook makes a difference. You can decide that you will be happy and productive. You are capable of more than you might think. Don’t forget that what you project influences others. Every action matters. It doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor in the face of inevitable obstacles and ordinary annoyances—it can help you stay buoyed up on rough seas.
- Recognize that each day offers opportunities. Great teachers don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They know that today is where we can make the world a little better. Make a list of what you hope to accomplish, and even if you only get three things done today, you’re that much farther down the road.
- Be an example of calm in the storm. Emotions like anger and frustration are clouds in your sky, but they will pass. Meditation, deep breathing, or a short walk can help you stay in control of many situations. Students look to you as a model of how to deal with life’s challenges—show them that they can be pros at being in charge of their own lives.
- Empathy gives you power. A compassionate teacher can make a difference in a few moments of conversation with a student or fellow educator. Use your heart and remember that everyone is fighting unseen battles and dealing with their own problems. Your kindness can make their path an easier one and can help make others stronger.
- An attitude of gratitude brightens your outlook. Look to those who have helped you and made your life a better one. Be prepared to pay back the gifts you have been given by sharing your knowledge and wisdom. Every morning or evening, remember the goodness in your world.
- Work hard but have fun, too! As you touch others’ lives, remember to enjoy your own.
Note: The teachers featured in the January 2022 Teaching Music article “HBCUs: Nurturing the Next Generation of Music Educators” are T. Marshall Jones, Albany State University, Albany, Georgia; Angelica Brooks, DMA candidate in Music Teaching and Learning, University of Southern California–Los Angeles; Uzee Brown, Jr., Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia; Taylor Whitehead, Warren County High School, Warrenton, North Carolina; and Shelby Chipman, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee. Two additional individuals contributed to this article: Johnathan Hamiel, Guilford High School, Gibsonville, North Carolina, and president of the North Carolina Music Educators Association, and Ted McDaniel, Ohio State University, Columbus.
About the author:
Dr. Mackie V. Spradley is the Immediate Past President of the National Association for Music Education and serves as the Director of Curriculum Programs at the Texas Education Agency in Austin, TX. She received the B.M. in Voice from UNT and M.A. in Vocal Pedagogy from Texas Woman’s University, Denton. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Anthropology from UNT. Spradley has published in academic journals and books, such as the National Forum of Multicultural Issues Journal, Texas Music Educators Conference Connections, and a book chapter in Educational Leadership and Music. She is a national speaker on music education, culturally responsive pedagogy, and critical theory. Learn more about Mackie Spradley.
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July 26, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)