Deep Thoughts at 3AM (My Educational Philosophy)

As I am up FAR too late tonight- I had the opportunity (read here: obligation) to write down my current "Educational Philosophy".

A couple of things come to mind: First: This is what I believe now. Today. Check in month, decade, eon, and things surely will have evolved. Second: Rather than write a narrative about the typical "How I teach" I decided to use the opportunity to be starkly FRANK. Honestly, I'm a little bit afraid and nervous how this might be read or interpreted by the recipient, but have decided rather than "play it safe" do what I've been urging my students to do, and take a risk. This has been percolating for the past few years and finally has emerged as a "moderately coherent" document- We'll have to see what it looks like tomorrow morning though. :)

'nuff said: Here's What *I* believe, as an educator. Friday, April 22, 2011

Statement of Teaching Philosophy Dr. Jonathan Brummel

In the summer of 1997 I was forever ruined as someone who merely “teaches” as a backup plan, and was doomed to lead a life of continued development. I think I have to blame my father and the Boy Scouts of America for raising me with a strong work ethic and moral compass, but it was my summer employment at the Cazadero Music Camp that truly ruined any possibility of becoming a teacher who simply ‘settled.’

I had recently completed my first taste of being a professional musician, having performed daily for thousands of park guests at Disneyland. The following summer I was destined to be a music instructor in a thousand year old forest with a tradition for educational excellence dating back to the 1970s. Founded by Mr. Robert Lutt, the Cazadero Music Camp has a history of attracting conductors and staff that are highly accomplished musicians, but are more significantly some of the most impassioned and talented educators in the field. Working with people for whom music education was not merely a job, but a lifestyle and joy, I fully engrossed myself in the selfless art of music education. The skills I learned that summer were many, but the approach which I adopted was one of full engagement with the people I was working with, and doing whatever it took to help them either accomplish their goal or take their abilities to the next level- and enjoy themselves in the process.

Education is an interesting thing--as I have grown through the years, I have morphed from a fledgling educator who was desperate to prove how much I knew in order to mask my underlying ignorance, to now fully embracing not only how ignorant I am, but also have learned to acknowledge and enjoy my mistakes. With each day, I become more competent, more accomplished, and make daily distinctions that take me further down the path of mastery. I have made it my mission to not be perfect, right, or amazing-- but simply to be better, every day, than the one before. This has led me to a greater level of skill and knowledge in my subject area.

In my youth, I found it necessary to always have the “right answer” and often taught my students in the same fashion my mentors taught me- simple rote instruction. The advice given was often good, always meant well, but I now take a very different approach with my students (often to their initial surprise, and occasional discomfort) -- I teach them how to teach themselves. The mechanics of playing a brass instrument are quite simple indeed, however the conditioning of the various skills, musculature, and psychological aspects of playing (and reproducing them on a consistent basis) are extremely complex. The biggest distinction I had to learn as an educator was that it is my duty to make the student responsible for their own development. If I can help the student become not only accountable and engaged in their own development each time they pick up the horn, then not only will their development accelerate rapidly, but they become responsible for all of their own accomplishments. When I coach my students now, rather than simply give them a list of things “to do this time,” we spend time exploring why it did or didn’t work, and how we can apply that to either get greater positive results, or use it as a data point of what “doesn’t work.”

By putting the focus on continued development and refinement as opposed to our internal judgements of “right or wrong” I have seen improvement that far outpaces both my, and my students progress. In our exploration together, I will use any tool or tactic necessary to keep the student in a positive state of mind and keep them mentally present and engaged. Levity is often used, but the mood can also be extremely focused and intense-- it is all dependent on what the particular student needs in order to progress.

I work with students ranging from third grade through professional musicians, and my mission is constant- how can I help this person grow, through the vehicle of music? Some of my students have gone on to significant success in a musical career, but all have not only gained a deeper understanding of music and ability ability to perform it. The greater benefit is a gain in self-confidence, focus, determination, planning, and problem solving - skills which are beneficial in all aspects of life. The curse, and gift, of my summer at the Cazadero Music Camp, was that I am driven to give my students the best of my abilities and current understanding of the topic they are studying or struggling with (because in five years I will certainly have a refined opinion from that of today), and that I am compelled to enhance my own skills so I can offer them more.