It's been a while since I had brain space to sit down and write. These few months have been a whirlwind and the time and energy of TMC's core team was entirely focused on our Teachers' Academy as we prepare our team to teach at our Instrumental Academies, both Piano and Violin, as well as our Early Childhood Programs. We are finally about done with the 1st Phase of all our three Teaching Academy as most of our teachers have started or are starting in September! =) Most importantly, we finally managed to block off an afternoon for a buffet lunch to enjoy some time as a team away from training, lesson plans and teaching! <3
Teachers' Academy and training is still ongoing but the first phase has already given me renewed energies and hope that our students will be in good hands! =) I was incredibly inspired working with teachers who took their teaching and students as well as their desire to grow to become more effective pedagogues seriously.
TMC Team @ Marriott Cafe
The TMC core team's persistence in quality education and events for our students and community is probably what really keeps us going even through trying times when our energy, time and resources sometimes run low. Our insistence and belief that our community deserves only the best, and settling for less is never an option, is the main factor that keeps us inspired. I would say I'm blessed with partners who value quality and have complete integrity of our work which really keeps me highly committed and grounded.
TMC has a strong vision and values. We believe that as a team we are stronger than we are as individuals and with strength, we have the ability to build an incredibly strong and passionate arts community. We believe in the culture of learning and that each team member has to value learning in order to inspire our students and community to do the same. We believe that teaching music is more than just imparting technical abilities, but to encourage our community to incorporate music as a lifestyle. As the team looked to expand and recruit, our focus while reviewing candidates was not so much sparkling resumes and accolades but rather the alignment of values.
All our junior teachers spend a couple of months training in the Teachers' Academy, where they go through an extremely rigorous training program to equip them with the necessary experience and skills, before embarking on their teaching journey at TMC. It is a huge investment on both the TMC team as well as our trainee teachers in terms of time, energy and finances. However, expecting our junior teachers to learn to teach merely through trial-and-error, possibly ruining students before finding their way pedagogically was not something we were comfortable with. We felt the strong responsibility to our teachers, to provide them with mentorship and make available the wealth of pedagogical experiences, to support them as best as possible and guide them to become effective pedagogues while finding their teaching styles, to provide them to avenues to discuss pedagogical-related issues, opportunities to gain teaching experiences and hands-on-learning as well as observe experienced teachers at work. We also felt the strong responsibility to our students and community, to provide them with quality education and musical experiences, to provide them the opportunity to work with pedagogues who were confident in their pedagogy, to not be at the risk of being poorly set up because of the lack of pedagogical knowledge on a teachers' part.
Violin Teachers' Academy started in May and the teachers' desire to grow and learn was inspiring! The most enjoyable aspect was everyone's involvement in sharing perspectives, experiences and ideas. Teachers try out various pedagogical ideas and we are constantly discussing what worked like a charm or failed ridiculously how we can improve on our teaching. The availability of perspectives and eagerness to learn as well as share pushed me to question and strengthen my own thoughts about and methods of teaching and I was highly encouraged by how the teachers were constantly exploring ways to be more effective pedagogues for their students and were highly inquisitive.
The first phase included pedagogy sessions covering various pedagogy topics ranging from progression of learning music to violin and bow technique to scales/etudes/repertoire used for different levels to ways we monitor a children's learning strengths and weaknesses and how we, as teachers can use a child's strengths to elevate their weaknesses. We also managed to involve many of my students to demonstrate the different pedagogy topics discussed as well as giving our Academy candidates opportunities to experience teaching specific warm ups, technique or repertoire. Before the Academy started I had spent months thinking about how each Academy would plan out, lesson planning for pedagogy sessions etc. Eventually, while there was always a framework for each session, it evolved to be led by the teachers themselves as we discuss various issues they have with their own students, pedagogy topics they struggle with teaching, progression of teaching technique they would like to explore etc.
Phase 1 also included many hands-on sessions where my students came in to work with Academy teachers who were assigned specific warm-ups/techniques/repertoire for an extended period of time. The fastest way for these teachers to learn to teach was to have them try it out with students since teaching violin, especially to younger and less advanced students, requires such a hands-on approach. These sessions also made apparent what I needed to work closely with each teacher on, whether it's the way we connect with a child, the words used to instruct, or the comfort and confidence levels in teaching different aspects of violin playing.
Not many photos were taken since we were all focused on these sessions but of course, we celebrated the end of Phase 1 over some good food! <3
Celebrating end of Phase 1 over lunch at Tai Cheong Bakery
Hands-on sessions working with violin students
Teaching assistantships, mentorship sessions and lesson observations cover the bulk of Phase 2 and we're well into this phase with our Instrumental Academy where our teachers work with some of our students on a weekly basis. These sessions really help our junior teachers build experience and confidence, and with a regular schedule, our assistant teachers are able to build a relationship with these students as well which is beneficial in both the teachers' pedagogical journey as well as the the child's learning progress. It's a real treat observing assistant teachers work with my students, seeing teachers put their learning into action as well as observing the different antics my students are capable of devising! I would like to think of these sessions as a win-win situation for everyone, our teaching assistants gaining hands on experience working with students under mentorship and our students gaining an additional perspective and practice time.
It's been such an insane journey since we started our Teaching Academies in May, and I'm looking forward to new experiences with our teachers! =)