MAAI Teacher Leader series
This is the ninth and last blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at http://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Education/MAAI# and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at http://www.maineartsassessment.com/#!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.
Frances Kellogg currently teaches K-3 classroom music and grades 6-8 chorus at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School. She has taught in Ellsworth for the last three years. Frances has just over 400 students and sees them twice each week for a total of 60 minutes. Previously, she taught PreK-6 classroom music and 3-8 chorus at Jay Elementary School and Spruce Mountain Middle School. This is her eighth year as a music teacher in Maine. Frances received her B.M.E. from the University of Maine at Orono in 2007, and currently performs with the University Percussion Ensemble there.
What do you like best about being a music educator?
I love to see students get inspired and have fun. I hear so many teachers say how much they wish they could do more creative things in their classrooms, but can’t because there isn’t time–often due to curriculum or testing. I get to watch my students unleash their creativity and give them the chance to think outside the box, while still teaching and giving them the information they need. I love it when my students draw a connection between music and ANYTHING else–their classroom, home, visual art, or physical education–when they make that connection, they get more excited about what we are learning and also remember more of what we are learning .
What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?
A supportive community is a major key to a successful arts education: support from the students’ parents, teachers, and administration. But building that support needs flexibility and a willingness to be a part of it. Make yourself seen at a parade or a baseball game can make all the difference to a student or the community as a whole. Being willing to adapt the framing of a lesson to be more interesting to your students can make the difference between a lesson they will forget and a lesson they will ask to repeat again.
How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?
Assessment has given me a way to know not only what my students are learning, but also how well I am teaching. I have long used assessment as a tool for measuring student knowledge, but have more recently learned how to use assessment as feedback for my teaching. If the students aren’t grasping a concept, what do I need to change? What has worked and what hasn’t? t has been quite the eye-opening adventure for me.
What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?
Joining MAAI has been a huge growth experience for me. I took a leap, with both feet, into a leadership role which was new territory for me. The greatest benefit of all has been a chance to communicate and collaborate with other arts teachers around the state. I have been very fortunate to not be the only music teacher in my district, but I have often been the only music teacher at my level (elementary vs. high school or middle school). It’s been great to be able to talk with other elementary music teachers and to hear their ideas and perspectives, while at the same time being able to share my own. In addition, MAAI has given me a huge boost of confidence when talking with other arts educators which has in turn given me more confidence in working with other educators at my own school.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My growth. When I first started teaching, I taught things that I thought were fun and would interest students; a lot of them being things I remembered from when I was a kid or things that I learned in college. I tested students on the things I thought they should have learned and never really used them to learn about my teaching. Now, eight years later, I have learned to work with a curriculum, to use assessments with my students to give them and myself feedback, to adapt my lessons to interest my students while still teaching and/or reviewing the concepts that need to be learned, and to still have fun while learning. Looking back eight years, I see a transformation that I am truly proud of and I certainly hope it will continue.
What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?
Negativity. With all the seemingly overwhelming changes happening in education in Maine right now, it’s easy to get sucked in to people complaining or griping or worrying. The only way to fight it is to be positive!
What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?
A good image. I started out as a nervous and anxious, fresh out of college kid who needed guidance. I didn’t know how to run a music program, or create/work with a curriculum, or put together concerts. I needed a lot of help (or at least it felt like it) when I first started. But I worked hard: I listened to what people told me about what they thought I should do and “how we’ve always done it”, and in the end, I made my own educated choices about what to do. Whether it was having concerts in the evening vs. during the school day, or giving students the opportunity to earn their recorder to keep (rather than just giving it to them), or taking the risk to ask for funding for a new idea; I was able to make those decisions based on what I had learned. When I left my first job and came to Ellsworth, I had already started down this path, so I had a better idea of what I should do and how I should act and ask for things.
Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?
Listen to your students. When my students ask if we can learn about something, I try to find a way to make it happen. Last year, one classroom of third grade students asked if we could sing a song about the environment because they were learning about the rainforest and ecology in their classrooms. So, I found a song that not only focused on saving the environment, but also taught students how to listen for a read two part harmony. Another classroom asked about rap; we discussed what students think rap is vs. what it is (and what it can be), and each classroom wrote a rap together. These two activities were some of the most enjoyable things I taught, because the students were so involved in the process.
If you were given $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?
I would split it. Keeping some for myself, I would do some serious house renovations: new kitchen counters, painting, a front deck with a hot tub, and a temperature controlled room for musical instrument storage and enjoyment. With the rest, I would find the right way to invest it in bringing programs and visiting artists into schools, both the school I work for and other schools in my area.
Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?
None. At that point, I will have had a chance to do what I always dreamed of in life: teach. If I can inspire just one person, then I have done what I needed to do, and that is something to be proud of.