Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Ashley Smith

June 18, 2013

This is the 36th in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Ashley Smith has taught for two years at Brunswick High School where she is the Choral Director; she directs Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 7.03.30 PMthree choirs and teaches piano and guitar.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

My favorite part about being an arts educator is that I get to share my love of music with others who have the same passion. Growing up, my most memorable experiences were those created in the music classroom. It is such a joy to go to work everyday and create those same experiences for my students.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Belief. Although there are many components to a successful arts program, this has proved to be the most important for me. You must first believe in yourself, you must believe in your students, and above all, you must believe in what you are doing.
  2. Commitment. With so much to do and so many people to take care of, it is important to stay true to yourself. As a music educator you have the unique opportunity to create a program that is reflective of yourself and your philosophy. Hold true to your vision, and it’s impossible not to succeed.
  3. Support. Nothing can be successful on it’s own. For any program to flourish, it needs the support of colleagues, friends, family, and community. Most importantly, it needs the support of your students. Support your students, and they will support you.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessment in the music classroom is an amazing thing! No matter how you do it, assessing your kids keeps them accountable for learning the information and you accountable for teaching it. I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be in the form of a big written test or a large-scale project, it’s whatever works for me. Assessment has not only helped me to re-evaluate my teaching practices, but it has been a great way for my students to realize what they have actually learned. There is nothing better than having a student say, “I didn’t know I could do this!”

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

The greatest benefit of joining the MAAI has been meeting so many passionate arts educators. It has been so encouraging to collaborate with other teachers who face the same challenges on a day to day basis. I am an infinitely better teacher for having worked with such devoted arts educators. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

What are you most proud of in your career?

My students. Their hard work and dedication never cease to amaze me. They continually go above and beyond what is expected of them and they truly embody my vision of what the BHS Choral Program should be. They have embraced me and my philosophy and they are always ready and willing to accept whatever challenge I throw their way. I learn something new from them everyday, and they are a continual reminder of why I love what I do. I couldn’t be more proud of all that they have accomplished in the past two years, and I greatly look forward to all of their future successes.

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

Honestly, being a teacher is what gets in the way of being a better teacher. There are so many tasks and duties to fulfill that the most relaxing part of the day is actually TEACHING. With so many things pulling us in different directions, it’s nice to know that our time in front of the students is really our time. It’s not the actual teaching part that we have to worry about, it’s everything else that goes along with it.

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

I must say that my biggest accomplishment has been the atmosphere that the students and myself have worked to create in the choral department here at BHS. I have always been a firm believer that the music classroom should be a place of mutual respect in which all students feel comfortable to express themselves freely. I have been lucky to learn alongside my students, working to create a space that fosters growth and creativity. I have found that the students take real pride in this environment, and they will work tirelessly to protect what they have worked so hard to create

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

You can do it! So often when you are teaching music or art you may be the only person in that discipline at your school, and as a new teacher that can be very overwhelming. There is no doubt that you are going to make mistakes, but that’s what it’s all about. We always encourage our students to take risks, and we have to push ourselves to do the same. Don’t lose sight of the big picture, you are doing what you love and you are making a difference.

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

After our exciting riser collapse last week, I would have to say that my first order of business would be purchasing new risers for my kids! I would use the rest of the money  to travel with friends and family and to create opportunities for my students like the ones that I was lucky enough to have growing up.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

As a second year teacher, I can’t help but stress about the small stuff. I get so worried about doing everything right that I often forget to enjoy each moment as it is happening. At the end of each year, I find myself looking back and realizing just how lucky I am to have had such amazing experiences with so many amazing young people. Fortunately, I am far off from 94, and if this is my biggest regret than I daresay I have lived a pretty fulfilling life!



  1. Ashley, your energy and enthusiasm come shining through and it is so nice to hear!

  2. Thanks for reading Ashley’s story Catherine!

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