MAAI Teacher Leader series
This is the seventh 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.
Pamela Kinsey serves on the MAAI Leadership Team along with being a Teacher Leader. She teaches music in Easton, Maine where her responsibilities include General Music K-6 (including Recorder), Beginning Band, Elementary Chorus, 7-12 Band, 7-12 Chorus and High School Jazz Choir. Pam has taught Music Appreciation at the High School level as well and she is the Co-Team Leader of the Wellness Team! She has been teaching music in some form since high school and gave private lessons. She has maintained a private ‘studio’ of varying numbers of students ever since. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education (with an instrumental emphasis on Flute) from the School of Music at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Pam has been teaching in schools since 1984, and in Easton since 1988.
What do you like best about being an music educator?
One of the things that I like best about teaching music is that it gives me an opportunity to share my love of all types of music with new ears. I see students from a young age and watch them grow and mature into wonderful young ladies and gentlemen and amazing young musicians. I can look back at several of my students and see them still actively participating in music! It is very rewarding. I have second-generation students continuing in the musical paths of their parents. I take them to concerts of every type available in a region where that is not necessarily the norm. Seeing their eyes roll at the prospect of going for the first time to the American Folk Festival in Bangor and then seeing their eyes light up at the idea of attending the Folk Festival a second…or third or fourth time….that is what makes me love my job. When students come back and seek me out to tell me how things are going. When students call me on the telephone to chat. When students invite me to their weddings and baby showers because we became friends while we were making music together. Those are all reasons that I teach music. It is a life style, not just a job.
What advice to you have for young teachers?
My advice to teachers and students alike is to take advantage of as many of the opportunities that present themselves to you as possible. You never know when something new will be the thing that hooks your interest and it might just take you places unimagined and amazing!
What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?
Keys to any successful program? I think that first of all, you must love your art form. I think it is important to be out there, practicing our craft, and letting the students see us in that light. My students know that I play in a Community Band. I bring them on a bus to see the diversity of membership from young to old, all participating together. They know that they are invited to play in the group once they have the ability or the desire! My students know that I play in a Community Orchestra. Again, I bring them on a bus to see an orchestra in action. We don’t have a string program and I like them to see that art form live. They also know that I am involved in music at my church. Again, music is more than my job: it is my vocation, my passion and part of my daily life. Truly, I practice what I teach!
I think it is important to help students to succeed, but equally important to let them know that failure is OKAY! They have to make mistakes with their singing and playing so that they can learn from them and grow as musicians. It makes me sad when I ask students ‘Is it okay to make a mistake in music class or in school?’ and have them answer ‘NO’. I tell them of course it is okay…that is how we learn! If we make a mistake because we are trying, then we know it is there and it is something we can fix.
How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?
I consider myself an ‘Old Dog’, and ‘new tricks’ come hard to me. Assessment in my classroom has forced me to re-evaluate how I am teaching and connecting with my students…especially the younger ones. We now have clearer reasons for doing what we are doing and the students are taking more ownership. Now when they create, I show them the rubric that tells them exactly what to do for each level of grading. When they try to hand that in, I remind them that they still need the rubric to complete the project. They can view and listen with discerning eyes and ears, because the expectations are clear. That is very powerful.
What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?
Becoming involved in the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative has given me more confidence in my teaching and in my advocacy skills. Finding my way as a department of one was difficult, since there was no support system that understood what I was trying to accomplish. Now, I am part of a caring, safe and supportive community of Arts professionals, ALL of whom understand what I am trying to accomplish and the struggles that I encounter on a daily basis, since they are very often shared struggles.
What are you most proud of in your career?
In my career, I am most proud of the relationships I have built with students and the hope that they possess an appreciation of music that will stay with them throughout their lives. I am proud of the fact that others see me in leadership roles that I might not have seen myself in. I have built up a rapport with other Arts educators throughout the state and region as a result of these leadership roles. I am proud to be a past chair of the District VII Northern Maine Music Educators Association, the former Secretary of the Maine Music Educators Association and the current President of the Maine Music Educators Association. I am also very proud of the work of MAAI and I am pleased to be a small part of the amazing leadership team and ‘Argy’s Army of Artists’!
What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?
Sometimes, I think that all of the mandates for standardized expectations get in the way of teaching…and learning….simply for the joy of teaching and learning. There are expectations that our students have the very highest level of achievement, but we are allowed only the very minimum of time in a week to meet these expectations. Of course, funding is an issue in all of education. For me, time to prepare and collaborate with others would be amazing, but again, there isn’t time in the day for this type of group planning in the Arts, especially in a Music Department of one.
What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be do to “luck” or circumstances?
Hard work and determination are necessary in any job. I think that one thing that I have accomplished is a successful blending of a 7-12 Band. Many years ago, we moved our 7th and 8th graders form the Elementary School, where I had a proper Middle School Band, to the High School and I was told there was no room in the schedule for Middle School Band and the program would now be a combined Band. You can imagine my concern at the idea of mixing students with two years of playing experience with students with five years of playing experience. I feel that the people in the position of making that decision really didn’t understand what they were expecting would just ‘happen’. It was a real struggle, especially at the beginning. Now, however, it is a successful blending of abilities and the Band is pretty darned great in my opinion! On the surface, it was just expected, but I had to be creative and work very hard to make it succeed and not lose students due to frustration by being too difficult or too easy.
If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have funding like $500,000! I would begin by purchasing instruments, so that every student would have the opportunity to play an instrument, regardless of financial status. New instruments are psychologically better than used. In a rural, depressed area, often cost is the only deterrent to playing an instrument and I hate seeing students have that obstacle in their path. If I could put an instrument in the hands of every child to use for their entire school career, I would love that.
Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?
When I am 94, and I can only hope to have that longevity, I hope there won’t be any regrets! I know I won’t regret my career choice. I was fortunate enough to have a grandmother that had a very long life. When she was in her 90s she was still making music, playing in three hand bell choirs, and playing the piano. She is my musical success story for my students. If you have music in your blood, you will always have music in your life!