Message from the UMEA President:
Working With What We've Been Given...
by Gregory J. Wheeler, PhD
I find it interesting to note that as we get older, we develop different levels of tolerance when teaching. This has to do with many variables that we deal with in the classroom. Some of these may include student responses to an altered schedule, during the day; difficulty making sure all students grasp and understand a new concept; realizing deficiency in self-knowledge when approached with a new teaching situation; working with parents, students, and administrators as we negotiate the grading process; the lack of having a teaching philosophy that pertains to the many areas of method and instructional pace…and the list goes on. It seems that the list lengthens the longer we serve, but it is extremely important that we attack the life we have chosen as music educators. I think all will agree that it is crucial that we de-clutter our lives as we grow and develop our teaching skills. It was Bruce Lee who said, "It is not a daily increase but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials." We must focus while placing a priority on specific goals. All teachers grow and progress, and it is best that we learn to focus on the important issues of our what we do as music educators.
Speaking in first person, I would like to identify the issues most important in order to improve myself in being an effective music educator. I first realize that I don't improve all at once, but that I identify my goals and objectives as I begin a "baby step" process of conquering and assimilation. I must commit to my own personal growth.
• I must think of number one first in order to assist others:
1. Family concerns
2. Sleep, eating habits, health, exercise, etc.
3. Practicing, study and development of people skills
• I am in a position where I can place emphasis on improving my teaching skills:
1. Application of new teaching concepts
2. Working with others to find and realize my weaknesses
Research focusing on self-affirmation theory is based on the individual protecting self-worth and integrity. This theory seems to leave behind the notion of accepting criticism in a state of humility in order to bring on valuable teaching growth. Individuals who place themselves in a braggadocio setting to protect self-worth are abruptly involved in a condition of ability regression – a dangerous recipe for successful teaching. Sherman and Cohen (2006) use the term "self-system" which is composed of the different domains of the individual. With this, the individual identifies in the roles of being a teacher, maintaining values which may include being charitable with good moral judgment, maintaining social identity - meaning belonging to a particular group (such as UMEA), and having a belief system representing the philosophical, political, and religious side of the individual. When any of these values are threatened, the individual has a tendency to aggressively respond to the presented opposition. Conditions in any one's life should not get to the point that necessitates this response unless it is based on a defense of the so called "self-system." At the same time, Lord, Ross, and Lepper (1979) maintain that when personal risk is involved, many respond by challenging the information rather than changing their own personal behavior.
As we work together in pushing forward the goals and objectives of the Utah Music Educators Association, we must represent our students to the best of our abilities. In my tenure as the President of Utah Music Educators Association, I would like to publically thank all those I work with for their willingness to serve, to stand up and let others know their true thoughts, and for maintaining personal philosophical beliefs of the way things should be – that they don’t give up at the first sign of opposition or challenge. One of our biggest challenges in this area is recognizing that there will always be issues we are pushing to change while representing music education in our state. There are great efforts being placed to build and strengthen our state association, involving the many activities for our students through the Utah High School Activities Association, as well as the new additions coming to us through festivals, representing the Jr. High Orchestra Festival and the Jr. High Jazz Festival.
Also, my congratulations to all involved with our All-State activities. I also encourage all music educators to get involved with the Utah Hill Day on February 15. This is the time and place that we declare ourselves true advocates for music education and supporters of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Since our Utah Legislature makes decisions, placing emphasis on music in our state instructional curriculum is critical.
Various All-State committees continue to plan and present performances that seem to always out-do those of the previous year. I encourage all to get involved and take advantage of these activities, which not only benefit our students but enhances the success of our teachers. I am proud to say that the UMEA board is presently working towards goals and objectives which will assist all of our state music educators to realize great success in their teaching.
This year's professional development conference in St. George will not disappoint. The various workshops and performances will present everyone with experiences they can take with them to improve their present teaching status.
So, what have we been given to work with? A terrific force of teachers with great ideas, talent and insight, that do all they can to make every day better as we instill the love of music in the lives of our students. I again look forward to meeting with and rubbing shoulders with all of you on February 3-4 in St. George. See you there!
Lord, C., Ross, L, and Lepper, M. R. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 2098-2109.
Sherman, D. K., and Cohen, G. L. (2006). The psychology of self-defense: Self-affirmation theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 38, pp. 183-242). San Diego, CA: Academic Press
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