Grad School Reflections

Two to Tango: Week 7 Musings

This week’s musing finds me in a slightly better place than last week as far as productivity goes on my overall course creation progress.

I have always been a big picture/conceptual thinker when it comes to how I approach my academic work. Outlines, overviews, and task checklists are my bread and butter to complete long-term projects and goals that span over weeks, months, and even years.

From my previous work in Instructional Systems Design I, I have learned to live and die by the instructional design document as my outline when actually jumping into the nitty gritty of building all of the modules. It really makes a huge difference when things are clearly fleshed out and thought through methodically in the document, because then it is simply a matter of compiling the materials and spending time writing the more page and assignment specific instructions for all of the content within each module.

As a result, my course looks less like complete Modules 1-4 at this point, but instead, the outlines and organization for all of the modules exist, in addition to beginning to fill in the instructions for all of the portions described within my design document. I’ve also included some additions that I’ve noticed in some of my UNT courses, like an instructor info page and course goals and objectives overview page.

My next steps are figuring out what articles, listening examples, and score excerpts I want to incorporate into the course. My biggest struggle here is what is considered copyrighted versus public domain – the general rule of thumb for composers, is that they have to be dead for at least 50 years, and after that their works are fair game. However, even though resources like IMSLP exist, many of the more visually pleasing/easy to view scores are owned by publishers and thus subjected to copyright. Recent recordings of dead composers also are protected by copyright law, as the performing group receives “intellectual rights” to their own interpretation of the work, and thus entitled to royalties of their performance. There is a lot of bureaucratic red tape surrounding classical music, and it gets even more convoluted the deeper you go. Like the fact that you can look up the score markings/studies of many major conductors in the last century – it would be really beneficial to include those in the score examples! But if they were edited/published by Hal Leonard, and despite the fact that you can easily find PDFs of them on the web, is that not a little bit sketchy when you think about it?

I also am thinking quite a lot about what kinds of articles and readings I am planning on including for this course. My default thought would be to use the UNT library system to find academic articles about performance practice, music and emotions, etc. However, I find myself pausing because of the age of my audience – high school kiddos. I also think about the reading ability of the population this course will hopefully serve – only about 50% are reading at grade level. I am considering including more visual examples (like videos) to help bridge this gap in my audience population, and being very intentional about the reading level of what I include. I might actually pick the brains of some of my language arts colleagues this week to make sure I’m on the right track, or if there are any additional supports I should consider.

Beyond that, I feel like my work on my course went better than last week. I’m feeling less daunted looking at it, because it’s simply a matter of sitting down and writing now at this point. Conceptually, I’m feeling pretty good. I feel like there is purpose in what I am doing because it actually solves a very real problem and challenge in the music education field.

The title of this musing is referring to the dance of peer reviewing. It has been a waiting game for my peer reviewer to get back to me and give me access so I can provide the required feedback for him; on the flip side, I am waiting to hear back on his suggestions for my work so far at this point on Sunday. Peer reviewing is like a tango – both partners need to be mutually in step with each other in order to get things accomplished on time to be able to apply it before moving forward. It is a tad frustrating to be waiting, because one of my pet peeves is tardiness, especially when submitting work. (It takes A LOT for me not to submit something on time. Ever.) I am trying to be empathetic and encouraging, but I also a tad cranky when I am unable to get done what I need to get done because of something outside of my control. A little worried about it moving forward, but trying to keep it positive too.

Mindfulness Musing

Finite vs Infinite Mindset Through Green Day

I am often asked about why I choose to live in orchestra land and choir land. Most music educators choose one or two areas of focus – choir, band, orchestra, and/or general music.

I’m weird. I started my music journey as a violinist. I fell in love with choir in high school. I was part of the “inaugural” string program in high school. Learned enough clarinet to survive and join HS band. I went to college to be a choir teacher, and midway through found a new love and home in symphony orchestra. Added the orchestral endorsement (to the choral and general endorsements), and still graduated on time. Chose a job that involved band, choir and orchestra, all at once. Eventually transitioned to my true passions of just orchestra and choir.

One of my recently discovered motivational gurus, Simon Sineck, describes two mindset approaches – finite versus infinite. Finite mindset is very goal centric – this world view marks the beginning of a new repetitive cycle, with the focus on striving and arriving at each clear destination.

In contrast, infinite mindset defines the journey as an uncharted pathway with infinite possibilities. The destinations are discovered along the way, instead of reached with a long-term, sequential action plan.

Fun fact, if you didn’t already know from my previous musings – I am absolutely enamored with alternative punk rock bands. Good Charlotte, My Chemical Romance and Green Day are all bands that I listen to on repeat, all the time. I definitely never left my middle school “emo” kid phase when it comes to my non-classical music preferences.

There is a certain timelessness and emotional weight that exist within the lyrics of all of the above listed artists. And being a little egocentric, I sometimes indulge in my own preferences (as most directors do). I have found myself programming Green Day’s 21 Guns again this fall concert in year five (having taught it previously during my first year).

Lyric interpretation is one of my favorite parts of choir land. It’s something that I don’t get to do in orchestra land, where other constraints to determine musicality and meaning are more at the forefront of the analysis process. I enjoy examining lyric choice even more so when there are multiple layers and imagery used, like in 21 Guns.

If you go literal, 21 Guns could be referring to a 21 Gun salute given to fallen soldiers at funeral services. Given that this was part of the 21st Century Breakdown album, it could be a commentary on the breakdown within America as a nation, to constantly be involved in armed conflict with little to no resolution.

If you go more conceptual, it is possible to interpret it as a relationship conflict of sorts – where there feels like no resolution is possible; that you feel that “you’ve lost all sense of control”. It is possible that Green Day was also commentating on the emotional and physical toll that can occur when stuck in a situation with no resolution or change in sight.

When discussing our interpretation of this text with my middle schoolers, we found ourselves really unpacking this idea of being in a disagreement with someone else and learning to let go and find closure. Either separately as individuals, or together, as heavily implied with the lyric choice of “you and I”.

In my never ceasing musing process, I found myself connecting the text back to this idea of finite and infinite mindset.

How would someone in a finite or fixed, goal-centric mindset cope with a conflict or challenge that is in direct opposition to their goal? Would they seek to engage and work through it, or would they refuse to entertain an alternative direction that could end up positively or negatively to their primary, more immediate goal?

How would someone in an infinite mindset approach the same situation? Or, would they have found themselves in another place entirety because of their willingness to live in the process and be flexible to the alternatives around them?

I am someone who has shaped my own life towards an infinite mindset, whether intentionally or not. I look and see infinite possibilities, and see the complexity of layers in everything around me. It’s not simple by any means, and yes it can make my spirit weary at times. But when I look back, if I had not been open to the possibilities, I would venture a guess that I would not have ended where my feet currently are.

And from this direction I have allowed myself to gravitate towards and live in, I know I am extremely thankful to get to work with some equitably inquisitive and open-minded young people to question it all through Green Day.

Do you know what’s worth fighting for
When it’s not worth dying for?
Does it take your breath away
And you feel yourself suffocating?
Does the pain weigh out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside?
You’re in ruins

One, twenty one guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight
One, twenty one guns
Throw up your arms into the sky,
You and I

Grad School Reflections

The Dreaded P-Word: Week 6 Musings

I’m going to be very transparently honest for a moment about how things are going in this week’s reflection.

The best description of where I am this week can be summed up in the dreaded p-word – procrastination.

Now that we have moved into the more self-directed, self-initiated, part of our work, I 100% fell into the trap that we were warned to not fall into – just because there are not firm turn in deadlines, does not mean that it is a good idea to put things off as this is a huge, time consuming, slightly soul eating, project.

I could go into extensive detail as to the laundry list of why I put off working on it this week (because to be honest everything in my life actually felt on fire this week professionally and personally), but it does not change where I’m at now. I’m owning it, and making a plan to move forward.

With what work I did do today, I am very thankful that I put an extensive amount of time into making sure my design document was thoroughly organized with what each module entails and what resources I will need to find and compile. It was relatively straightforward to see how to organize everything in a way that built upon each other both within each week module and the content before it; as someone who is a huge organizational nerd, I am really loving that everything flows the way I originally envisioned when writing my design document, because the course topic is one that is very conceptual and very subjective. The duality between something that needs to be assessed, while also providing freedom has been a fun issue to tackle.

My biggest challenge moving forward is definitely going to be better time management. I did not anticipate being as mentally exhausted on the weekends (after my first grad school year where I was able to power through everything on Saturday or Sunday as long as I read during the week) with the challenges I am facing at work. My plan moving forward is to work on small chunks throughout the week (30 minutes to an hour’s worth) instead of trying to grind through everything over a 4-6 hour period, which is just too much as I try and better maintain my work/personal/grad school life balance.

I can do this.

Mindfulness Musing

Pure Imagination

“Come with me and you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination!
Take a look and you’ll see
Into your imagination.”

I‘m the first to admit that I have some pretty high achieving standards/goals/expectations for myself in all that I do.

Things that immediately come to mind:

  • Entering 7 different solos/ensembles for contest my senior year. Receiving straight Superior ratings, placed and/or was first alternate for 5 of the 7 entries.
  • Adding my third music teaching endorsement to an already 9 semester program, and still graduating on time.
  • Intentionally taking the “impossible” choir/band/orchestra job just to prove that I could (whether for myself, or the “world,” I’m still not sure…)
  • All advanced ensembles at both grade levels receiving Superior ratings by year 4.
  • Auditioning my group for and getting into WMEA by my nickel year.

There are more, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. Or perhaps they are the ones I am most proud of, because they marked a significant moment in my performance-centric life.

If you had asked me when I was first beginning to walk down the path I am on now if I had thought the above stated goals would be attained by age 27, I probably would have laughed so uncomfortably long you would have walked away by the time I recovered enough to respond properly.

And yet, each of these came from values, from philosophies that were instilled in me by my mentors early on.

What does it mean to get Superior ratings? Why is solo and ensemble work so important? Why devote energy to challenging yourself to create music and art in multiple ways, not just in one medium?

“If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.”

I am blessed to have people in my life that never once said it was impossible, nor silly to exist in a space of “pure imagination”.

While they have provided the necessary reality checks along the way, not once did I feel like it was impossible to change the world; instead, it simply will take energy, time, and consistent advocacy to facilitate change. Anything is possible – “There’s nothing to it!” (Which is perhaps the biggest mistruth Mr. Wonka told in the entire plot.)

One of the most frustrating parts as an educator, or perhaps even just as a human, is when the environment or end product you wish to create, is met with resistance and challenge, or worse, flat out refusal to even consider the potential benefits for others beyond oneself or world view.

It is difficult to temper my innate desire to create on a grandiose scale at the highest possible levels when looking at the obstacles in my path we must face to get us there.

I’m beginning to think that a chorus of Oompa Loompas singing the misfortune of all our failures for the sake of adding a comedic element would be a welcome reprieve to counterbalance this duality to keep pushing or exist within the status quo that does not appear to best serve those that really matter the most in the end – the students.

Simply look around – Paradise abounds.

Mindfulness Musing

Stay the Course

It felt appropriate to title this particular musing with a deep/educational/philosophical musing. After a summer term of reflections specific to my UNT ed tech grad work, I have decided to resume blogging about life (teaching et. all) as part of my own practice. That buzzword – authentic – is still buzzing around in my skull, and nothing feels quite as authentic to myself than owning my own journey, and sharing it with others.

When we last left our heroine, she was at the end of the most exhausting/burn out year of her teaching existence. Anxiety. Depression. Compassion fatigue. Feeling like a complete failure to her students and in turn, herself as both a professional and as a human. The whole nine yards. A moment of clarity (or perhaps the harsh reality) that something needed to change. Our heroine (aka me, if you hadn’t figured that out by now), made some tough choices, and stuck by them despite the system itself not being exactly the most supportive.

The biggest choice was to finally decide to prioritize my own health and to begin the process of healing my own heart and spirit from what I was carrying with me, instead of feeling so encumbered by it all 24/7.

Fast forward one summer vacation to another school year and another journey. Today marks one month of school beginning already, holy crap. New string kiddos are experiencing the horrific cat dying sound of bows to instruments for the first time, choir kids are complaining of allergies/flu season, and my high schoolers are kind of overwhelmed with a general “UGH/OMG/$!@#!” feeling.

Already I have begun to see a change in myself as a teacher and as human from when I began this self-care/self-work process. Little things that normally would have been “stressful” are just little things. I’m choosing to listen more, and respecting my own needs through the process. I have/had a very bad habit of self-sacrificing at great cost to myself and my relationships with others; I am intentionally creating boundaries between my work and sanctuary time.

More importantly, students are continuing to see from my own commitment to them and our ensemble families that it is possible to take on the world even when it feels like Life is pushing them face first into the ground from every direction.

It is possible to succeed.

Despite the dumpster fire I feel I was last year, huge accomplishments were still made – our first orchestra-only tour, acceptance and admittance to the 2020 WMEA conference to perform for a concert hour, real and separate intro sections for both choir and orchestra, and so on.

None of that would have been possible without continuing to push and work despite feeling very lost in the overall process, having also lost sight of my purpose piled in with everything else.

I have learned that sometimes you must simply endure and stay the course. Trust that you will end up on the other side, even if it seems impossible in the immediate moment. You will come out stronger in the end, and in turn, become a guiding force for those beginning their own journey that lack the perspective you have gained from the experience, even if it was terribly ugly and painful.

Grad School Reflections

Let me ASSURE you: Week 4 Musings

What was the model? What is the point of the model?

The ASSURE model was initially developed by Heinich et al. to give educators a framework that allow teachers to incorporate technology, media, and materials into classroom teaching. (Kim & Dowey, 2016). The model uses the acronym “ASSURE” to label the six step instructional design process:
Analyze Learners
State standards and objectives
Select strategies, technology, media, and materials
Utilize technology, media, and material
Require learner participation
Evaluate and revise

How is the model different from what you already know? How is it the same?

The ASSURE model is a much narrower lens than ADDIE; the ASSURE model is designed to be used as a framework for classroom teachers, where ADDIE is designed to be a much broader framework for anyone creating a design. The ASSURE model focuses on very education/teacher specific topics, like stating standards and objectives and requiring learner participation for engagement, versus ADDIE which seeks to solve some sort of problem, not necessarily education specific.

This model is very similar to the ADDIE instructional design model that I was introduced to during my LTEC 5210 (ISD I) class over this past summer term. The ADDIE model includes five phases – Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Both the ASSURE and ADDIE models include analysis and evaluation phases; also, it could be argued that the selecting and utilizing phases of ASSURE are similar to the design and development phases of ADDIE.

Is this model something you may use? Why or why not?

I could envision myself running my designs through this framework, given that the majority of the content and courses I am creating are designed to solve a very real problem and/or challenge I have run into as a music teacher. I like that the ASSURE model includes a “state standards and objectives” phase, as this is something that I have grappled with making applicable to my own practice (given that in music land we often tackle 400+ things in a day’s rehearsal that I might have planned for, or might have just responded to in the moment) when being evaluated with the 5D+ teacher evaluation framework used by my administrators from WA OSPI. I have found that the objective/task breakdown that I have become familiar with during my graduate studies makes sense, and so now I’m getting in the practice of posting it with our class to-dos for the day. Reminders, especially when they are built into the model itself, helps!

How is an ID model different from a theoretical model (i.e. social constructivism)? Why is this distinction important?

An ID model is different from a theoretical model in that an ID model is a framework or process to design instruction, and a theoretical model is an idea or ideas of how people should teach. The distinction is important because theoretical models shape how a designer might choose to create content (based on how they believe learning is acquired), in contrast to an ID model that provides a series of steps or phases in which a design is created, not necessarily providing the “why” it was created that way.

Do you think such a differentiation will matter for a client?

I think the differentiation will matter to the client depending on the context in which the design is being created and utilized. In an education environment, most sound instructional designs are created using strategies from theoretical models that focus on how learners best learn, in order to create the most effective and engaging learning environment for their students. In other scenarios (like workplace training that must be given to all employees, quickly and simply), the client might be seeking simply for the design to be created to check off requirements on their end as regulated or mandated by law or their advisors.

Culatta, R. (2019). ADDIE Model. Retrieved from

Kim, D., & Downey, S. sedowney@valdosta. ed. (2016). Examining the Use of the ASSURE Model by K–12 Teachers. Computers in the Schools33(3), 153–168.

Grad School Reflections

Feedback Fun: Week 3 Musings

[Note: Since I have not yet received feedback from my peer reviewer at the time of this posting (and being wary of the impending deadline for this assignment), I will instead be answering these questions from the feedback given by my instructor. Hopefully that’s okay!]

Based upon your experience revising your instructional design document this week, reflect on what you learned from your peer’s [instructor’s] feedback. What did you learn about your work? What did you change as a result? What did you not change? Why?

In no particular order, the biggest takeaways from the feedback I received from my instructor about my instructional design document are:

  1. I often get pretty tunnel-visioned when it comes to how I wish to create and deliver the materials in my grad school work. I believe this stems from a desire to actually create meaningful and actually useful content that has practical and very real use in my work RIGHT NOW. Given the constant resistance to technology in music education (at least in traditional ensemble environments), I constantly am seeing common problems out there in the world, with very few people seeing technology as a possible solution. For instance – musicality is something that everyone struggles to teach; it demands higher conceptual understanding, and is incredibly subjective. As music educators, we quantify it as best as we can using performance rubrics and giving students a “tool kit” in which to make an informed decision. Creating an intensive, asynchronous course about musicality would solve a very real problem for myself and my colleagues. Would it make sense to my brain to create everything in Google Classroom as that is what I use for work and then can easily implement it as fast as I can create it? Yes. (My mentor teacher always said, “Work smarter, not harder.” Which sounds really lazy, but makes a whole lot of sense when trying to grow music programs while trying to create potentially significant professional tech advances in your field.) That being said, I understand and respect why Canvas is the primary platform for the course; if anything, I will be able to say that I am familiar in both Google Classroom and Canvas lands, which is useful.
  2. Instructional design and the course itself are not synonymous terms. That was definitely a carry-over misconception on my part from Instructional Design I, where we were focused more so on the instructional design document than the course development. Two related, but different things.
  3. I subconsciously try streamline my goals and objectives by combining similar words and actions into one goal. It took me a minute, but I realized that I did so because both words (like demonstrate and describe) are included in one standard statement from the OSPI Performing Arts standards from which they are originally based and taken from. It was an interesting thing to consider why they chose to combine two action verbs in one goal/standard, because, as you stated, they are two different things. I would be intrigued to talk with the group that created the state standards to see why they chose to write them that way instead of as two separate categories.
  4. Evaluation and assessment are also not synonymous terms, despite feeling that way in my head. Evaluation is focused on the course itself and whether or not it was successful in helping the students meet the targeted goals and objectives, and what can be revised for future implementation. Assessment is how the students will be assessed for mastery and meeting the goals/objectives as stated by the course.

As a result of the feedback I received, I revised the portions of my document relating to the platform delivery method (from Google Classroom to Canvas), splitting up the action verbs into two objectives (versus combining in one objective), and adding an evaluation summary that actual centered on evaluating the course itself (not the students). I also editing the goals and objectives listed in the modules to match with each module task/assignment in the course.

The only thing I did not completely revise from my instructor’s feedback was my target audience. It was suggested that I narrow my audience from “any high school student” to a specific grade level, class or school. My justification is that the reality of the ensembles that we offer (and the majority out there) has all grade levels and all experience levels. Even our “advanced” sections still can sometimes have a freshman or relatively new musician depending on a large plethora of circumstances. Also, it is important for all musicians (regardless of ensemble medium) to have a working understanding of performance practice and what can effect musicality interpretation in all performance mediums, as we often work interdisciplinary (choir and orchestra, choir and band, orchestra and band, etc.) with each other in performance. I did modify “any” to 9th-12th grade students entering a choir/band/orchestra ensemble for the first time; since this course is focused on providing an introduction to musicality, it would make sense to adjust the target audience to just students new to our system.