Saturday, October 1, 2011

Meeting the Abreu Fellows Class of 2011

Meeting the Abreu Fellows Class of 2011 at Longy School of Music
While back east for a Teacher of the Year event in Princeton and NYC, I had the honor of traveling to Boston to meet and provide teacher training for the 2011 class of Abreu Fellows. I did a similar training for the class of 2010.  In four short days, I shared some of the most useful practices gathered over 17 years of teaching, modeled them in classrooms at the Conservatory Lab Charter School (CLCS) for the fellows to observe and debriefed afterward, focusing on what worked (and what didn't), why and how will this inform us for planning tomorrow's lesson.

In particular, I'd like to thank Levi Comstock, a strings teacher at  CLCS for welcoming me into his classroom last year where I observed, team-taught and gave feedback.  I visited his classroom again this year, as well as other El Sistema Boston staff at CLCS.  Levi's attitude is one that makes for a great teacher.  I saw this same open attitude modeled in nucleos throughout Venezuela.  Feedback given one day was incorporated into practice the next.  Levi did the same thing.

For example, last year Levi found it challenging to keep the attention of his students while explaining bow divisions.  When we debriefed afterward, I shared some brain-compatible strategies and Waldorf principles that had worked for me.

One in particular is the use of story.  In Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen describes factors that engage the mind: emotion, movement, relevance, novelty and pattern.  A story contains all of them and makes for a very effective teaching strategy. As an example of using story to teach something technical or abstract, I shared with Levi my Fox story.

In pure Venezuelan style, Levi incorporated this feedback into his lesson the next day and created an incredible lesson. Here's the proof!  Just watch the kids as Levi sings a song he composed, "All Aboard the Bow Express."


 We both came away from the experience better teachers.  Levi blogged about the lesson to share with others.  Thank you, Levi.

There is a growing demand for trained teachers to teach in El Sistema initiatives all over the the country,  all whom face a daunting task:  manage a large group of young children with instruments in their hands, during after-school hours.  This training in partnership with CLCS, New England Conservatory and Longy School of Music gave the Abreu Fellows a chance to see theory put into practice.

I'd like to thank Erik Holgrem, Director of the Abreu Fellows program, for inviting me to work with the Abreu Fellow classes these past two years.  Through his leadership, teacher training is becoming an important component of the Abreu Fellows program.   Thank you, Rebecca Levi, David Malek, and the entire CLCS staff for allowing your program to act as a lab where staff are encouraged to take risks and test new ideas in a safe and supportive environment.

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