This spring I completed my National Boards Certification in Teaching for 6-12 Vocal Music. I submitted my porfolio in May and find out if I passed this December. Yes, it's a long wait time. I'm undecided how I ultimately feel about it. I'm not sure if I'll pass, I think in retrospect I could've done things better/ differently when picking lessons, filming, and writing. But, I do feel as though I effectively organized everything. As I have a lot of friends looking to complete this process soon, here are some tips and the story of my process.
I honestly don't know why you wouldn't pursue getting your National Boards (NB). It pays for itself in the first year. I realize we're teachers and a couple extra grand around is a typical, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. You can also go for the loan repayment option through the state (NC). I didn't because I couldn't get my act together in time.
There are 4 components. Component 1 is the test portion. Component 2-4 are portfolio portions.
You have 3 years to complete all 4 components, but every year you submit a component you pay the registration fee (70-80 bucks). I did component 1 / the test first. I wanted to see if I could pass it before doing all the portfolio components. Year 2 I did components 2-4 and re-took a part of the test. More on that below.
Component 1 - The Test
I didn't study for it beyond reading how the test format would be and going through the practice questions from the general website. While I passed the test (I took the test in May and found out in December), I learned that your overall passing score is dependent on the number of total points you receive. The test is comprised of 4 parts and I did the worst on the composition section. I learned I could retake any portion(s) of the test for $125 this second year, so I decided to re-do the composition.
Overall tips - the multiple choice section encompassed a lot. I was glad I had recently finished grad school and certain things were relatively fresh. I wouldn't even know where I would begin to start studying if it had been several years. For the listening and giving feedback on what you heard and how you would fix it - I struggled to hear things because the headphones weren't as loud as I would've preferred. For the composition portion, this is what I practiced the most - setting up my paper. I do most of my compositions on the computer. To actually pencil to paper compose is something I rarely do. Practicing setting up my paper at home really helped when I was in the testing environment. I also really liked being able to do the composition section completely fresh on my re-take. The first time it was the last thing I did and I was mentally spent.
Google Drive. Google Drive. Google Drive.
From Day 1 I organized everything in there. I'll put a sample of what my drive looked like.
I also kept a 3-ring binder of everything printed out in there, including the forms. I really do best with hand writing before typing. I would make notes in my binder and then transfer online.
As soon as I put my forms in the Google Drive, I added my candidate number to the brackets. I didn't want to have to be doing that the day I'm submitting everything. I tried to do as much formatting from the beginning before worrying with the content.
Did I mention organizing everything in Google Drive? Seriously. Do it.
Next, when the portal went live to be able to upload documents, I was no where near being able to submit anything. However, I went online to familiarize myself with what it looked like. I also made sure I had everything labelled like it said on the site. Then, when I went to upload everything on the day it was due, it was really really easy to see what and where to update everything.
I also made a basic Excel spreadsheet of everything with columns that told me what level was I at.
In regards to content, NBTC is super strict about what you talk about so I'm going to skip over this. I also don't have my results back and don't want to give any tips that might not be tips! Ha!
There is a LOT to this process. It's also an emotional rollercoaster. At times I would think, "I SO have this. I am killin' it." and 2 seconds later, "I have NO idea what I'm doing. Why am I even a teacher?" From what I've read to who I've talked to - that sentiment is shared by all.
Below is a link to a replicate of my Google Drive Folders I used. Everything is labeled and organized. All of my data has been removed. I'm hoping this helps someone else and if I have to re-do anything, it will help me next year!
Link to my Google Drive Template
Our local elementary school asked us to come do a presentation on a cappella singing for their Arts Night. We occassionally do a cappella pieces but I don't have a group designated to the genre. I also like it, but am no expert.
While we do listening and chord building frequently, I wanted a unique chord progression to build a song off. So one morning I literally You Tubed "easy a cappella songs for beginners" and found this gem:
I don't know why I clicked on it, probably just to see how funny it would be. But it actually worked.
So I took it to my advanced ensemble and taught them the progression. *A lot of times I'll show them the video of this and teach using that, but since I wasn't crazy about the quality, I just used the content.*
Once they learned the progression I began singing the melody over it. Then had them experimenting with different vowels and rhythms on their pitch progressions.
Finally, I split them into groups and gave them a series of 3-4 class periods to work on their own arrangements. They performed after the first two rehearsals for each other for feedback. We then began to talk about the integration of movement and formations in a cappella, etc.
The end result was super awesome and these students were able to not only take their arrangements to perform at this Arts night, they also helped the students make up their own arrangements.
This February I had the honor of conducting the auditioned choir, Chorale, from Meredith College at their winter concert while Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Shannon Gravelle, is on maternity leave. The concert was in conjunction with two other Meredith choruses, led by Sally Albrecht, and the Capital City Girls Choir Cantabile, led by Dr. Fran Page.
This week I had the opportunity to present at the North Carolina Music Educator's Conference in Winston Salem, NC.
This year I created a choir instagram for my program at Sanderson. Most kids use Instagram and Snapchat and I wanted a social media outlet for them to connect with.
Reasons Why I Created a Choir Instagram:
1. Communication. I believe we should be reaching students through the means with which they already communicate.
2. Documentation. I genuinely love taking pictures and video and Instagram is a digital, shareable scrapbook.
3. Positivity. I believe students engage with so much negative through social media, this page would be an outlet for positivity.
4. Recruitment. What a way for incoming students and current students to see what the program offers.
5. Community Involvement. Both choral and in our area, an instagram allows for us to be seen perhaps a bit more in the public eye
Unforeseen Advantages in Creating a Choir Instagram
1. Inner-Choir Connection. Multiple students, and some students I would not expect either, have commented on how they love seeing inside the rehearsals of the other classes. This is part due to the usage of our Instagram stories usage. I often record snippets of what we're singing in rehearsals and other students can engage with the singers and the content.
2. Studying. Because students are watching stories back, depending on what I'm recording, they get a second opportunity to see the material. One day in 3rd period we were going over IPA vowels and I recorded students making funny motions with the symbols and sound. The following day a guy in 2nd period requested for us to get to play the "funny vowel game" in his class - and we hadn't even started studying IPA yet!
3. Take-Over Tuesdays. This stemmed from a collaboration with my wonderful TA and director of online and visual content. She devised an entire Take-Over Tuesday schedule where different choir leaders "take-over" the instagram account and share different things about themselves, insights into rehearsal, and they pick a "super singer" to recognize. I am always so impressed with their insight and stories.
Foreseen Advantages in Creating a Choir Instagram
1. Communication. Students are definitely following it and finding out pertinent information!
2. Documentation. We're creating an awesome scrapbook of our experiences in each.
3. Positivity. Students are engaging with each other positively on the site, too.
4. Recruitment. We recently got a new student and they remarked how they'd already been following us on social media and had an idea of what was going on/ what it was like.
5. Community Involvement. One surprising facet has been the "follows" from kids outside of our school. I think it's great for kids to have insight into other programs!
I wish I'd done this sooner - but am so glad we've started!
5,I had so much fun presenting on portfolios in the choral classroom at Wingate University's Ages and Stages conference. Keegan Brittain, their student ACDA chapter president, was kind enough to invite me and be so awesome about organizing the entire event. I LOVE meeting future music educators and getting their feedback on how their school experience is going and what things they have to add/ are excited to bring to the choral classroom world!
I'll update sheets with their ideas of things to add- but for the most part we talked about adding more information in song sheets for students to identify how the text connects with them. This has given me ideas of how to approach the next couple days in my classroom as we wait for MPA music to arrive (in addition to extra sight-singing practice. *wink, wink*)
Here are links to the presentation, handout, song sheets, and annotation check-list!
5,000 points y'all for being so fun.
This year the Longleaf School of the Arts Chamber Singers (auditioned mixed chorus) and Lyra (auditioned treble chorus) are performing at the Raleigh Moravian Candle Tea from 1-1:30 at the Raleigh Moravian Church.
All four choral ensembles will be performing in our Winter Choral Concert at Edenton Street UMC in downtown Raleigh. Doors open at 6:30 pm.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6 at 7 PM
The Chancel Choir from Asbury United Methodist Church will be performing our annual Christmas Cantata twice this year. We have loved working on Heather Sorenson's THE SILENCE AND THE SOUND. Full orchestra, lights, video. Will be wonderful!
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10 at 7 PM DECEMBER 11 at 10 AM
a group or company:
a companion or associate.
one of the ten divisions in an ancient Roman legion, numbering from300 to 600 soldiers.
any group of soldiers or warriors.
an accomplice; abettor:
This year in Treble Chorus I devised "co-horts" or small groups of 3-4 singers. Each co-hort contained at least 1 returning chorister and 1 newbie to the program. I coagulated the singers after having watched and listened to them work after a quarter, to ensure ability levels and personalities would compliment each other best as possible.
Our school has a similar school wide "mentor" program in which new freshmen and sophomore students can sign up for. Returning sophomores through seniors can apply to be a mentor. Hence, why I didn't use the "mentor" "mentee" terminology. I also liked the concept of a "co-hort" because it implied less of an "experienced" over "non or lesser experienced" student to student relationship. In fact, for some groups I put musically advanced freshman with not-so-advanced sophomores.
I use the groups to help establish a framework for students to work together . To provide accountability. To take pressure off of me for getting a barrage of questions from new-comers. To take away from having only 1-2 "student directors/ leaders" - this ensures every student has a group to belong with and potentiallly eliminates some of the student director power grab. To attempt to build unity.
So far I've enjoyed the nomenclature and the usefulness. When we go to work on a section and I can say, "Find your Co-Hort" and the kids buzz towards each other. Or when I'm finalizing concert details and refuse to answer one more time when and where call time is, "Ask you Co-Hort"
YouTube has completely revolutionized music and music education. Not only are thousands of rehearsals and performances at our fingertips, but music education lessons are constantly being uploaded. I discovered THIS folk round being taught by Dr. Robert Amchin.
Instead of me teaching the piece, I showed the video to my class. Straight up. Very little introduction, the video WAS the introduction. We (not the children while I worked on something at my desk, I actively participated watching and learning with them). Then we watched the video again. This time we followed along, just as if we were the students in the video. By the end of the video we really didn't need it any more and had learned it completely on our own.
WHY THIS WAS AWESOME
1. Learn by Seeing
We live in a "learn by seeing" world.
I could have explained and taught this like Dr. Amchin did. But the kids "got it" by seeing it first and thus were much more successful because they saw the end result.
2. They Taught Themselves
Student Based Learning. Project Based Learning.
The song was their project. They learned by watching another group of people learn.
Students, especially middle school students, want to do what everyone else is doing.
I am a white female. A lot of my students are male and a lot aren't white. This video showed a broad range of race and sexuality. Students watched and saw people that looked like them. How awesome!
4. Student/ Classroom Observation
Because I wasn't teaching the lesson I was free to observe classroom dynamics and students' participation.
5. When One Person teaches about a Multi-Person activity
Chorus is a multi-person activity. So it's funny when you think so much of rehearsal modeling is done by one person. Yes, one person can model what one person should do, but so much of choral singing is about acting as an ensemble. Watching and learning an activity/ song through watching and learning from a group was unique, different, and yet effective.
6. How to learn online
As we move to a web-based learning society, students continue to learn more and more through watching videos. I am AMAZED at how many of my students learn instruments by watching online tutorials. For students without online learning experience or who struggle with how to approach it, this shows them: watch, practice, do.
WHY THIS PARTICULAR VIDEO WAS AWESOME...
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN SELECTING YOUTUBE TEACHING VIDEOS
I don't believe that YouTube teaching works for EVERY YouTube video.
Here's some reasons why this particular video was awesome.
1. Length of Time
The video was roughly 6 minutes. Just long enough to clearly explain, but short enough to keep interest and allow us to watch it several times during class.
2. Amazing Teaching
Clearly Dr. Amchin's teaching is clear, succinct, and engaging. The scaffolding is legit. This makes it an easy choice to use in the classroom.
3. Different People
I mentioned this above but I want to reiterate how awesome it was to have a music education video that showed different sexes and races. I also think it helped that these were college-aged students. Young enough to be relevant to secondary students, old enough to demand a sort of respect from students. I don't think a group of middle-aged, white women would have been as effective. (No offense to middle-aged, white women, I'm quick on my way to joining you in the ranks)
The End Result...
Not only did my students learn an awesome song, I did, too! It was far more meaningful for me to learn it with them. Here's a tweet of my 6th grade students performing this in the front lobby of our school because the acoustics are amazing there. I did this with 6, 7, 8 grade students and they all participated and loved it. More to come on why folk dancing and singing is dancing and singing its way into my heart and teaching methods....