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Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Jen Nash

May 15, 2012

 

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an arts educator

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. The series contains a set of questions that provide the opportunity for you to read and learn from others.

Jen Nash currently teaches K-8 music at the Etna-Dixmont School and has been there for the last 4 years. There are approximately 220 students from K-8.  Classes include: K-6 general music, 3rd grade recorders, beginner band, second year band, and middle school band, jazz band and chorus. Jen is a teacher leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, phase I.

What do you like best about being a music/art/drama/dance educator?

Watching the learning phases that students go through. I love being able to teach students the skills to become independent and self driven. The advantage of being a K-8 music teacher is watching them grow up, and mature in all things musical. It is wonderful when a student can identify mistakes, plan out a way-of-attack, and smile at what they have accomplished. When given the opportunity, students can be inquisitive, insightful and take ownership in the process.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Direction                                                                                                                              – long term and short term goals (educator produced and student produced)
  2. Drive

-a clear philosophy of why the program exists and who it serves

-after setting goals, planning how to accomplish goals

3.    Gas

-Students fuel the program.

*recruiting, helping in events, sharing with younger students,     student leaders

*establishing expectations and creative assessments

-Parents and community

*without their support, arts programs would not exist

-Making sure your teacher tank does not hit “empty”.

*we run ourselves ragged for what we believe in. We must find balance.

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

I have student self reflect at the end of every class. Most the days I ask them to assess their overall performance for the day. Examples: Where you on task? Did understand the topic? Did you apply the new concepts? Did you follow directions? Did you put forth 100% effort?

I used to give them an overall individual assessment at the end of every class last year (no input from students). Since using the student driven method for the 2011-2012 school year, I have had students practicing more, on task, and asking about how they may improve.  I use a chart labeled 1-4, and clothes pins with students names on them.  It takes less than 2 minutes to take note of their scores, and I use GoogleDocs to keep it organized.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

It has been said over and over again: collaboration. Collaboration among all arts educators is essential to the survival and growth of programs across this state. I have learned so much from the many effective, wise (I do not mean “old”) teachers. Imagine what a truly unified front of Maine arts teachers would look like? How could we fine tune, or, perhaps revolutionize our methods, to reach this new generation of students?

What are you most proud of in your career?

Keeping students first. Teaching means trying things, and when I find they do not work, I do something else to reach them. I am content in knowing that I will always be seeking answers. Oh! And keeping a smile. Even on the tough days.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

 Attitude.  If one does not like a situation: “fix it” or “get over it”.  If one can not, “fix it” or “get over it”, then move on.  Life is too short, and the people in immediate proximity suffer.

Apple or PC?

Macbook

iPad

Always have my Droid Incredible (PC based) close by.

Use what works for you.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

“You’re such a techie”. Back in middle school, I remember taking my first computer class.  We learned all about floppy disks, Oregon Trail, and typing. At some point, I was hooked on Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.  Occasionally in high school, I would be asked to type out a paper.

In college, I received a very, very old laptop that had the worst screen of any computer at that time. It worked-I could AOL instant message, so all was well.  The Form and Composition class I took, demanded computer lab time in the music building. This is where I learned about Sibelius (a music notation software). Third year of college, thanks to Mom, a wonderful Dell desktop graced my dorm room.

So, I received my first MLTI laptop 5 years ago.  Since then, I have spent hours just trying out new software, playing with spreadsheets, web browsers and etc.  Last summer, I took the UM Summer Technology Institute course where I learned all about Google and it’s endless blessings.

What intrigues me is finding a program that can make my job more organized, and communication easier.  I also love being able to help other people when they feel they just can not handle this whole “machine” thing.  I almost feel like it is part of my job to share all the stuff I have learned. So, yes, it seems as if, being young equals understanding computers.  It mostly has to do with the fact that I want to learn and I have had lots of practice.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Love what you do. Find joy in every day. Have peace knowing that most situations work out. Be kind to every student. Faithful to your friendships and family. Self control, even when it is a full moon and the kids are wild.  Compassion and gentleness in approaching all difficult situations.

I think back to all of the leaders that had an impact on my life. They were patient, calm, sincere in their intentions and slow to temper. I really think those people had it figured out.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

            Take a tropical vacation

            Buy a really nice piano

            Start a string program

            Give to missionaries

            Pay off student loans and mortgage

            Start college fund for niece and nephew

            Refinish the school stage

Links with resources: Etna-Dixmont School Webpage

Jake Sturtevant and Jen Nash Web Resources

Thank you Jen for taking the time to tell your story!

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