Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Virtual Monthly Happy Hour

Dear Friends,

It’s been a very long time since I actively blogged. Now that I’m running Community & Education programs for Orchestra of St. Luke's, the last thing I feel like doing after a long day’s work is sitting at the computer and writing more. At this stage, more than sharing what I’m learning along the way, I’m craving to learn from my colleagues about what’s working for you all, and what challenges and milestones you're encountering along the way. Amidst the all-consuming nature of my job (which I love), I find myself yearning for a monthly drink with my Sistema and other arts education colleagues and friends, to just share whatever we can in the spirit of growing in our individual work.

So I’d like to change the format of this blog for a bit, and turn it into a conversation. If we were to all get together informally over coffee (or something stronger) and share our questions and concerns, what would they be? Let’s start simply: what’s one thing going on in your program this week that you wish you could share with your colleagues outside of your organization?

To get the conversation started, here’s what’s on my mind this week: how do I find (or develop) the kinds of teachers who will embody the spirit of “Sistema” and commit every lesson to helping the kids build focus, collaboration, and respect? I’ve brought in guest teachers to model what I’m hoping to see in the classroom, but how do I create that same energy across the whole team of teaching artists who have very different skills and strengths?

Please comment either with feedback, or with your own questions for the community. I very much hope to hear from you!

Here’s to an abundant, healthy, and joyful 2014. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jennifer! I have also struggled with the question you presented. I've come to two conclusions so far:

    1. Trust the individual. Lucky for me, I hired two fantastic teachers. They are both very different, but both have the best interest of the kids at heart. I may do things very differently than they do, and what they do might not always be considered "Sistema," but at the end of the day I can't deny that the kids love their teachers and they're learning a lot. So, I let them have a great deal of freedom in terms of educational and mentoring style. I think my teachers appreciate that I trust them and allow them this freedom. Trust goes a long way in terms of building a team of awesome teachers. Obviously it can't be this cut and dry if you have a teacher who is really struggling, but in general I think trust is the best answer.

    2. Model what you want. I don't model much teaching any more because I don't need to, but I am always sure to model how I expect the kids to be treated. Sometimes I'll purposefully deal with situations with kids in front of my teachers so they will see how I want them to be handled. This is important, as the day-to-day of program activities can be chaotic and I have to trust my teachers to be able to handle certain situations appropriately if I'm not around. Again with the trust thing... :)

    Okay, and here's a third thing: While I am technically the boss, I definitely operate in a horizontal, facilitative leadership way. This is easier to do with a small staff, but it's so important to gather and utilize everyone's ideas and suggestions as much as possible. This creates ownership among the staff, which is an important component of energy you're hoping to create in your program.

    Hope that is helpful! I'm still learning a lot about this myself!