Welcome back to #TeacherFeature! Every Wednesday this month I’ll be highlight the work and career of one of my favorite educators and talking about how they’ve influenced my career and teaching philosophy.
Today I am really pleased to be able to feature a local educator and academic who is truly using her passion for music and music learning to make all voices in our community visible and valued. Please welcome to the blog Ms Sarah Minette!
As I was developing my own philosophy of teaching and starting to promote the image I wanted to have on the scene, many people said, ‘you need to meet Sarah Minette.’ We’ve since connected, and I can’t say when collective advice has ever been so spot on. Sarah is a kind, compassionate, committed music educator with an eye for finding pathways into the most vulnerable students’ hearts and minds.
Sarah teaches several classes at South High School in Minneapolis. South is a big, diverse school in an urban location that pulls students from many different facets of the Minneapolis community. Three of my own students attend and participate in their band program (hi, Henry, Genevieve, and Ellie!), Leading class guitar, beginning band, and Jazz II, and offering a course on popular music in America, Sarah brings her own thoughtful teaching philosophy to each.
You can read the whole statement in the link above, but here’s my favorite part (seriously though, it’s all excellent):
There must be a sense of safety so that the students and myself, in our vulnerable states can take intellectual and personal risks. However, this can only occur if the content is relevant to the students, their lives, their diverse backgrounds, and the learning community. I consider what prior knowledge and understanding the students with whom I work, as well as future students, may bring with them to the classroom. Relinquishing the title “expert” and instead, considering myself a “co-learner” has augmented the teaching and learning experience for not only myself, but the students with whom I work.
-From “Teaching and Learning Statement”, Sarah Minette’s website.
Sarah has numerous anecdotes and experiences on the blog portion of her website, and I encourage you to explore her fine writing on the subject of her teaching. My particular favorite is her musings on the million dollar question: “What does it mean to be successful?”
Discussing a recent article in which the author proscribed a particular brand of achievement to what a successful guitar class would look like, Sarah questions why numbers and rankings have become so important for music teachers, and wonders what we may have lost sight of.
From the post:
As educators, we have goals for our students and hopefully, we share these goals and involve the students in the goal-making. Ideally, the goals should come from the students first and we help them get there. But if this is what it means to see success, for the students to succeed, why are we not reading about their accomplishments? Why am I reading more about the teachers’ accomplishments? This is not to dismiss the hard work that teachers do, we work our asses off, no doubt about that. But why? Do we work our butts off to receive awards, or do we work our butts off to watch the students struggle with a musical problem, only to work through the problem themselves and possibly others, and come out with a better understanding on the other side?
She goes on to describe her guitar class’s trip to the recording studios at McNally-Smith College of Music (R.I.P.) and how they managed the creative, technical, and marketing processes all on their own with minimal guidance from her. At the end they had a product, yes, but the product was bonus material when considering the overall lessons and growth these students undertook for their own musical benefit.
An academic also, Sarah is working on her doctorate in music education, with a dissertation in the works exploring how LGBTQ music educators navigate their personal and professional lives. It’s another example of her commitment to bringing diverse voices into music education and the broader sphere of learning communities.
Thinking about the myriad examples of inclusion, empathy, and risk-taking Sarah Minette takes as an educator and academic every day inspires me to do more for my students and my community. There are so many voices to be heard, and all we need is the patience and care to listen to them.