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Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Matt Doiron

June 12, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an educator

This is the 13th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Matt Doiron teaches high school instrumental music in the Sanford Public Schools. He has been teaching for 22 years. The Sanford High School band program involves about 90 students in concert band, marching band, jazz ensemble and pep band. In addition Matt teaches AP Music Theory and about 75 beginning guitar students every year. Matt has been with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative as a Teacher Leader in the first phase and we’re thrilled to have him serving on the Leadership Team for the second phase.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

It provides me with an opportunity to “walk the walk.”  There is a lot of research and a lot of talk about how arts education is vitally important. The rest of the educational establishment will see us as important when they experience, first hand, what arts education really can do. My goal every day to make that happen.

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

  1. You have to have an expert understanding of your content area.
  2. You have to have an understanding of how students learn the content.
  3. You have to be driven to use the two understandings to make things happen in your school.

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

I work to assess students individual musical growth throughout all the semesters they are involved in the band program at SHS. This is quite a shift from “You must attend all performances and behave well in rehearsals.” It’s about being able to individualize instruction for all students and measure that growth over time that matters. When the students get this, they see preparing for what they need to do in rehearsal and performance as a part of their overall musical growth, not simply as “I need to make sure I play Db in the trio.” This is quite a hurdle for many young musicians as it is transitioning them into a much larger and more complex musical world, but once they make the jump, they have begun a truly transforming process of being musical thinkers instead of thoughtless trained doers.

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

My involvement in the arts assessment initiative brought me through a process of defining what I really believe my job entails. I don’t hesitate to be direct about what I need to be doing for my kids and what is necessary for growing the program. I have thought through both how and what I grade and how my expectations need to shift to cause the students to take ownership of their musical growth and for my program to be considered valid by the people I teach with and for.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Performing for the President of the United States.

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

Time.  (We never seem to take out the “trash” in education so many of us are still doing 31 different parts of past initiatives because they don’t ever seem to be re-evaluated and removed.)

Apple or PC?

Apple

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

Re-building and maintaining the music program at Sanford High School. When I came to teach here, there were 19 students in the high school band. Now we are talking about everything from better schedules to new facilities and programs and what programs we could look to offer out into the future.

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

The long term success of what we do is dependent upon us walking the walk of best practice in teaching all the 21st century skills that can best be delivered by arts education.  We can lead the way on changes in our schools or we can continue to do what we’ve always done and then complain when we loose more programs. Without our leadership we will not be “at the table” when important decisions are made, we will be “on the menu.”

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

Cover my daughters’ college educations, pay off the house, work on my PhD.  (There would probably be a trip to Europe in there somewhere too.)

Thank you Matt for sharing your story!

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