the stories of a los angeles violinist

thoughts on teaching

Added on by Jordan Martone.

hey! here's an update on my life as a music teacher this season:

for new readers who don't know, in addition to my life as a freelance musician, i teach string orchestras and my own private students during the day. teaching day jobs + gigs at night = my perfect work life. 

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this summer, just after i graduated college, got married, and arrived back home after our honeymoon, i was offered a job at an elementary school as a new beginning strings teacher. after much poking and prodding, i decided to take the job. for the past 3 years, i've assisted multiple public school string programs, (this year, i'm assisting 4 schools) which has actually, in hindsight, been preparing me for this new job. and let me tell you, this new job has been an experience so far. imagine being in a small classroom and 17 adorable puppies come running in all at once and somehow, you have to get them to "sit", "shake", and "play dead" all at the exact same time. puppies vs. elementary schoolers... no difference really.

as i was assisting a little one last week, adjusting her shoulder rest and helping her maneuver her cheap, spray-painted violin she bought on eBay (oy.) she said something that struck me. the whole class was playing a simple pizzicato exercise and this little girl finally managed to get the hang of it after her umpteenth attempt and she turned to me with wide eyes, a banana-smile plastered on her face, and exclaimed, " i just love this so very much!" in the most triumphant manner possible. it instantly brought tears to my eyes, which really surprised me. i had an instinctive emotional reaction to this child experiencing the joy of playing an instrument for the first time. it's a nice reminder of why i started doing this in the first place.

the fact that i am not working for anyone at this new school is crazy. i am my own boss. i'm not the assistant, i get to make the rules. the school staff are reluctant in trusting me, i can tell. it probably doesn't help that they all think i look like a middle schooler (come on, i'm a 22-year old college grad that's married. so not in middle school.)

as a new elementary string teacher, i hope to inspire kids in such a way that they experience all that music has to offer them personally. balancing learning and fun is an art, i've learned, as well as a constant battle. every year brings new kids and therefore, a new classroom dynamic that demands a flexible teacher. the concept of a classroom group instrumental music program is flawed in its initial design, making this a tricky job. but i've seen this work for a few select teachers i've worked for, so i'm determined to show people that i can do it too. i may be small, but i am mighty, people! after all, i'm the daughter of kara slocum. (if you know what i mean by that, +10 jordan points to you.)

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kudos to you teachers out there. keep your spirits high, and your heart open to little encouragements. in a thankless job, we need these things.