Let’s Go Beyond The Classroom
By Sean Jones
In 6th grade, my band director Jessica Turner noticed that I was always the first student to arrive at band rehearsal. She also noticed that I’d be practicing sections of the book that were a bit further along than the other band kids. So, she decided to ask my mother if she could take me to lunch. Without hesitation, my mother said yes. That lunch changed my life. While stuffing my face with pizza, Ms. Turner slid two Miles Davis CDs across the table and said “check these out when you get home. They’re bad!!” So, after school that day, I rushed home and put on Miles Davis’ album “Kind of Blue”. After playing that one several times, I put in the other album “Tutu”. After playing that one several times, I went back to the first. Repeated several times, then the other again. I would do this all night for the next several days until I had every note that Miles played, memorized in my head.
Those moments, along with so many other moments given to me by a long list of fantastic teachers, would shape the artist and educator that I am today. During these times, it will be increasingly more important to create more moments like these for our students. I have always felt that true teaching reflects more of a mentor/mentee relationship than that of a teacher/student relationship. I don’t teach to tests, class time restraints or semester, year, degree, etc. restraints. Why? Learning and sharing are not based on clocks, on curriculum, degrees, juries or any of that. The relationship goes beyond traditional parameters, which is why I believe now is the perfect time to restore true teaching. Teaching that doesn’t “clock in” or solely relies on a “plan” that can be relegated to time constraints and deadlines.
In short, fellow educators, this is the ideal time to develop relationships with students that are more along the lines of an apprenticeship. Here are a few hallmarks, in my view, of these types of teaching relationships:
- They last. They go beyond the time parameters of lessons, classes, etc.
- They’re more about sharing and less about lecturing.
- They allow time to be fluid. True learning incorporates time for discovery. Apprentices often do not “discover” the “hows” in a particular time frame. They come to “knowing” in their time.
- You don’t teach to get good reviews or assessments to retain students. You give honest advice and truth in the spirit of progression and love, not worrying about the outcomes of those that cannot handle truth.
- Long suffering! True teaching is patient. What takes one person a day, may take the next a year. Be there for both.
Lastly, it isn’t restricted to a physical place. As we all begin to attempt to teach in these unprecedented times, it’s crucial that we all go beyond the classroom and allow our hearts and spirits to take that physical place. Open up your heart and soul to your students both online and in person, allowing for flexibility, trust, patience, understanding, accountability and slow growth. For me, this is true teaching! This is what we’re being called to do as educators. This is what Jessica Turner did for me.
This being my first address as president of the Jazz Education Network, I’d like to dedicate this message to Ms. Turner. Thank you for being a mentor and seeing me. Thank you for going beyond the classroom. Let’s all go beyond the classroom! Especially, now. Thank you all for entrusting me to lead JEN in these unprecedented times. I look forward to seeing you all again, on the other side of better.