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Hyper-Focus Fosters Higher Quality Output

836145_focus.jpgGet your commenting skills ready, there’s lots of material to be discussed here. I will be offline for most of this coming week and would love to hear the thoughts of my readers on these subjects.

This week, I will be traveling to San Antonio for the annual Texas Music Educators Association clinic and convention. I’m excited. That convention marks the beginning of the heavy push as we prepare for the UIL Concert & Sight Reading contest, which will be held in early April. It also signifies the end of my relaxed life. The next two months will be extremely hectic and crowded for me as I focus on making sure that everything is taken care of as I prepare two bands for contest.

Wait, I didn’t want to read your life story!
So why do I tell you all of this? I have decided to apply one of the techniques that I use most effectively in my teaching method to my blogging habits. My mind is so focused on reaching that unattainable goal of musical perfection, that I don’t do very well thinking of topics to write about on my blog. So expect the articles to slow to a slight trickle for the next 8 weeks or so. It’s not because I don’t like you, it’s just because I am busy.

That’s a lame excuse
Indeed, the excuse is lame. But wait, there’s more! I sound like an infomercial host here. How sad is that?

I have recently been approached with a few opportunities to write for other websites. Some will be original content, others will be copies from my current blog. Whatever the case, I want to be sure that the articles I write for other sites are slightly more polished than a lot of my writing has been on here. I don’t proofread. I didn’t proofread when I was in school either. Shhh. This means that I will post even less frequently, but that when I do write something, it should be really good. At least that’s the plan.

If I want to be great, I must focus on the microscopic areas of the picture. It’s the art of putting a bunch of little pictures together to form a much more refined macrocosm.A real world example
All of this is an example of what I have found to be the most effective teaching technique I use. If every class used it, I am convinced that (most) students would grasp the concepts much better and be better prepared to handle the work they are presented.

I have discovered that when I prepare students to perform, we have to focus on very minute details and nuances of the music in order for the overall work to sound good. The same can be said for achieving excellence in any other area. If I want to be good, I can focus on the large picture all the time. It will come together pretty well.

If I want to be great, I must focus on the microscopic areas of the picture. It’s the art of putting a bunch of little pictures together to form a much more refined macrocosm. This is an area that great musicians have picked up on and great music teachers naturally do.

I wonder how many core area teachers actually do this. Multiplication tables are one example that comes to mind. Occasionally history teachers or science teachers will do it with dates or scientific method or Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species (Kings Play Chess On Flat Green Spaces). But how often do we seek out ways to use repetition in our teaching? It’s one of the most effective tools for memorization and developing skills.

Why do you tell me all this?
I want your thoughts and feedback. If I only write one article a week, will you unsubscribe? If I were to limit my writing to one subject area (I don’t plan to, but it’s a hypothetical question), what would you want it to be?

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

7 thoughts on “Hyper-Focus Fosters Higher Quality Output

  1. I would not unsubscribe from your blog because I really enjoy your thoughts and how “real” you seem to be. I have read other blogs that use impressive words and sound very “administrative” and I tend to gloss over them. Also, you are in my google reader so I will now whenever you update so I don’t miss any of your posts. There will be time coming up when I will be on an 8 week trip where my access to the internet may be a little spotty so my posts may trickle down a little also. I’m not a fair weather friend (LOL) so I’ll look forward to whenever you update!

  2. I will remain loyal as well. Your content is great and well thought out and presented. Will you share your articles for other websites here on your blog?

  3. Joel,
    if you only write one article per week, not only will I unsubscribe, but you will leave me no choice other than to smash my computer with a vintage rock guitar.
    Wait, I don’t really know how to unsubscribe, so I guess I’ll keep you on after all…

  4. I can understand how the time to blog gets away. My own gets away from me as well. I have occasionally realized that I’ve not posted in a month… I figure that it just means that the kids come first.

  5. Well, this is encouraging. Mister Teacher, I won’t tell you how to unsubscribe from my blog! I guess you’ll just have to stick it out one way or the other. Traditional blogging wisdom says to post regularly and frequently, but I guess sporadic posting is one thing that most educators understand and forgive.

  6. So, sometimes, over explaining something as minute as a quarter rest is still important? Interesting. I suppose after teaching and reteaching the basics about 5,000 times does get a little old but for those students who are “just on the edge” of grasping the concept, it feels like it’s time to move on when really, it isn’t.

    I actually needed to hear that. I guess as professionals in the field, we sometimes and maybe often take for granted that our kids know this stuff because we know it. I’m writing my lesson plans for the spring semester this week. One thing I am doing with each of my bands is go back, review, play and then review again. I found some older UIL Level 1 among that heap in my office that I’m using with my beginners. Since we’re not part of the TMEA deal, I can use it more for teaching purposes than competition. The rhythm and note patterns are simple enough for the first year player yet complex enough to set a goal and challenge their young minds think ahead.

    Does it ever feel like mindless chatter when you’ve repeated the same lesson about 7 times in a row? Just wondering. I think this is one the places I’ve been going wrong in my classes: I’m not giving the kids enough time and space to really get what I want them to learn. That could make for frustration and confusion and lead to an unmanaged class. I know with the impending visits from my principals and the accreditation team from ACSI coming this spring, my contract could be up as well. Don’t want to go there.

    Any suggestions for improving?

  7. A good start, Joel. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming it’s termed “chunking down” and it’s a major component for effective learning strategies. Repetition is fine as far as it goes, however, there are some more interesting, as in keeping students engaged, methods of learning. I don’t know if it still holds “true”, however, back in the day (yeah, I typed that) learning music theory held to a rule of 3s as in 3 practices of a piece of music. Corrections were done after each attempt in the early stages and then shifted to only at the conclusion of the third attempt. I’ve used this format with some measure of success when teaching.

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