Friday, October 31, 2008


Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been writing and then rewriting the dissertation proposal, on a strict self-imposed deadline. But it's good, and better for the reduction, in part because I'm curbing my own tendencies to reference things I feel I a) should in order to be a successful musicologist and b) want to because I put the effort into reading them and I like what they have to say.

A couple weeks ago, I headed out to London (Ontario) for a weekend workshop on calling English country dances. This has been a long-term hobby, but it was also my first introduction into teaching. And while I focus pretty heavily on academic life to the demise of my folk dancing life, I'm finding much of what we talked about to be surprisingly helpful. Some thoughts:

- We talked a lot about the basics of good teaching- nonverbal teaching, being concise, choosing words carefully. In dance, words just delay the dancing, and talk over the music. But too little leaves the dancers confused, and they can't listen to the music, because they're too busy trying to figure out what to do. I encounter the same problems with audio examples- too much talking turns it into a boring exercise, but too little leaves them listening without a sense of why. I'm still tweaking both, trying to find enough words to whet the appetite and make it productive, but it's so nice as a dancer or a listener to do it and diiscover something without being told to.

- Practice, practice, practice. Actually, more like just do it. Because no matter how much you prepare, something unexpected will happen. Calling has taught me more about being quick on my feet and looking calm than anything.

- If you say something and it doesn't work, repeating it likely isn't going to improve the situation, not even if you say it with more volume. Which leads to my final point:

- The most advanced skill we worked on was how to teach advanced dancers, especially in a mixed crowd. GSI-ing is pretty tame: all the students are at the same level, they're all in the same course, and the one-size-fits-all model, while not perfect, is close to what I use. Chances are with most terms either everyone knows it or no one does. But the prospect of teaching mixed classes (as I will likely be doing next semester) or upper level courses still scares me. How to teach in a way so as to neither bore the advanced students nor lose the beginners? In dancing, beginners can learn on the fly, by doing it, and with floor support. I don't expect much of that in the classroom.

It's nice when hobbies don't just give you release but help put your work in perspective (and nicer when you have time to actually pursue them!). Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how this helps with dissertating yet.

PS: GO PHILLIES! I wish I could be there to enjoy it with my Philly friends, but it's a good feeling nonetheless to watch something you love get what they wanted for so long. And it didn't happen while I had class!


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