Consistency in Education

Children are impatient.

Spend a day around a five-year-old who has accumulated the knowledge to know how some life-mechanism works but still lacks the focus to see it through, and you will see a small-scale version of the workings of an average teenage mind. Much like the annoying boss in every work-place comedy, they want results and they want them now.

It is our duty as teachers to see these impatient beings, so full of heart and potential, through a process exponentially bigger than themselves and help them understand the lessons they encounter as they go. Often I will refer to this as “herding cats”, but in reality it’s more like leading a blindfolded friend through an obstacle course. The benefit of telling them “I told you to listen to me…” when they stub something is a luxury I would urge you to use sparingly.

But in the same vein, our responsibility to both the students and to the craft of teaching comes completely into focus when viewed from this angle. That is why we plan – not to keep the class from crashing around our ears, but to make sure that the daily and weekly objectives and skills fit into the bigger, grander progression of information and improvement that will place our students at the pinnacle of our abilities as they leave our care. It’s not just our job to give them good information, it’s also our duty to help the wring everything they can out of the experiences we create together. Especially in our field, these are powerful experiences that have ramifications far beyond the football field, gym floor, or band hall. Roll your eyes, but the life-lessons are real.

It is to that end that I urge you to look at one simple, dynamic, and over-archingly huge concept in your planning and pedagogy: consistency.

From point A to point Z, are your students receiving instruction that dovetails with the last idea they were introduced to? Does your forward and backward technique have a similar kinesthetic vocabulary, so that skills from one reinforce the other? Does your visual approach help to reinforce your individual and ensemble fundamental philosophy? Does the way your students enter the rehearsal reflect your desires for them in the last 10 minutes of that same rehearsal?

If it does, awesome. If not, don’t despair. You’re not harming your students – more than likely you are just spending more time re-teaching and clarifying than you should be. There are more elegant ways to accomplish your goals, both visually and musically. That’s what this series is about – finding those ways.

I don’t proclaim that I have all the answers, or even that everything I tell you will work 100% of the time for you and your group. We all have different battles to fight and students to teach, but the universal truth of consistency in your approach (on a micro-, macro-, personal-, and team-level) is the corner-stone to success for anyone doing anything.

I sincerely hope that you find the information I present to you interesting and helpful. Where I have resources, I will link to them so that you can use that information as well. If you have a question, concern, or simply a disagreement with something that I say PLEASE e-mail me. Ultimately, I am creating this blog as an additional resource for directors – I want to make it as useful to you as the information has been for me.

Thanks for reading – don’t forget to e-mail me with your thoughts and reactions.

Bryan Harmsen

Bryan is the owner of Visaudio Designs. He is a wind and percussion music arranger whose arrangements and compositions have helped many ensembles earn numerous gold medals on their local circuits as well as finalist positions, the 2011 PSO Silver Medalist, 2013 PIA Gold Medalist, 2014 PIO Silver Medalist, and 2015 PIO and PSO Silver Medalists at WGI World Championships.

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