Teacher of the Week: Nisreen Jardaneh, Repton Abu DhabiOctober 8, 2017, 4:35 am GMT
HEAD OF MUSIC
REPTON SCHOOL ABU DHABI
Why and how did you get into teaching?
I have been a pianist for the past 30 years and continue to enjoy every single minute of it. When I was eight, my first piano teacher played a piece that began from the low part of the piano, that produced such a fulfilling feeling that I still, to this day, carry within me every time my fingertips touch the piano; a feeling that is transferred to my listeners when I play. But I didn't think of teaching at that time. When I finished my education, my mother advised me to think of a job that contributes positively to the community. It didn't really hit me until I moved from Jordan to Canada to pursue a higher education qualification in music. When I started teaching young students at that time and I witnessed the enormous amount of positive energy that comes from that and how much it benefits the students regardless of their abilities, and how one can change someone's life through teaching, I couldn't think of a better way to contribute to the community.
How long have you been teaching for? How long have you been in the Middle East?
I have been teaching for 14 years in total and the past four years at Repton School Abu Dhabi.
What is exciting about your role?
The excitement starts very early in the morning when I start school time by playing live music or conducting a music parade, or later in the day when I surprise students during break time with a fun performance. Also, planning with students and preparing for assemblies or workshops is very exciting. Witnessing my music room transforming into a music lab full of students working on different instruments, sharing ideas and asking questions, makes me ecstatic!
What is challenging about your role?
I recently read "Reflections on Positivity and Happiness" by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, so I can share it with my children and students at school. It really struck me the importance of perceiving challenges as opportunities, and how one's mindset can determine one's view on things in life. Imagine if we perceive every challenge in teaching as an opportunity to achieve something, think of the wonderful things that we can do as teachers! It reinforced my belief that if a student has a learning difficulty then music can be a great opportunity to help, whether by increasing concentration when reading music, or help with strengthening fine motor skills through technique, and hand-eye coordination when practicing, building confidence with performances, etc.
What's the biggest myth about teaching?
I think the biggest myth about teaching is the assumption that if you know your subject, then you are ready to teach. Based on experience, it is not how much you know but how well you can communicate your knowledge with the diverse audience attending your class and how to sustain the attention of students from the beginning of class till the end. How would you build creativity and curiosity in your class? How would you provide them with the necessary tools to be good citizens ready for the future? In the case of music, how would you encourage students to practise daily without you having to tell them about the practice routine? This is all about how you deliver your knowledge to them, not about how much you know!
Who has been your inspiration throughout your career? Why?
I have three people who have been an inspiration to my career. My professor Gilles Comeau who was my teacher and mentor for eight years in Canada. Observing his teaching and working with him made me a better teacher and researcher, he equipped me with a wide range of teaching tools and methods and provided so many opportunities through training, workshops, and presentations. I still sign up for online courses with him to stay updated with the latest research in music education. The second person, is Marie Claude, director of OPUS Academy in Canada who I had the privilege to work with on writing music programs, teaching, performing, and training music teachers. She taught me so much on resilience and creativity. We had many moments of jumping for joy at the academy when we'd come up with new teaching ideas during some of our planning sessions. Her multitasking skills of which some involved simultaneously writing a play with music arrangements while talking on the phone and eating is something I still try to get my head around! The third person, is Mr. Robert Relton, the principle of Repton Abu Dhabi School, his drive and passion in education not only inspires students, but inspires me as a teacher. He strongly supports music education in the school in so many ways. He rarely misses a music assembly, and his speeches after every one provides encouragement and positivity and drives me to challenge myself to do better!
What would you say has been your greatest achievement over the course of your career?
I feel very grateful that I managed to plant seeds for music appreciation in the students and was able to nourish the talents within through teaching, speaking at conferences and workshops, and volunteering in music activities. Every time I receive updates from parents and their children wherever they are in this world about their latest music news, or a video showing their latest work, feels like the greatest achievement to me.
Tell us one way a particular student has impacted your life or teaching philosophy
One student's story stands out because it is very close to my heart. This student has a cochlear implant, which one would think would be a challenge for her to appreciate music. However, she defied all expectations, including mine. The experience opened my eyes to the unlimited possibilities that music education can be used to help. It taught me how to explore non traditional ways to teach music. For example, rely more on the sense of feeling and touch, use colour coding for music reading, change music books to make it more accessible to all, and how to prepare and participate in assemblies. I don't think I can describe the feeling I had when I saw that student performing for the first time in the music assembly followed by a smile, a bow and a thumbs up!
How do you get students interested in the subject you teach – have you found an innovative way to engage students?
I found several ways to engage students not only during the lesson but throughout the learning process. In every lesson, I try to add something new and different: from a simple warm up that involves introducing a colourful ball, a practice tower, a sound puzzle, a funny picture, weird looking instrument, etc. The students love this part and they always ask "What's new? What do you have today?' This activity might take 2 minutes only but has a significant impact on the students' engagement.
I always try different ways to present an idea. For example, if I'm talking about sound levels, I produce sound on different instruments and get my students to try the instruments, and reflect on that. I show students different real life examples to relate to the topic we are discussing. In the case of sound level, I introduced them to a unique music project by Ammar Khammash who discovered music scales hidden in millions of flints in the desert. After that I give them the chance to create their own project to present for class, where they learn from each other and develop constructive feedback, they love this dynamic sequence of activities.
I always ask for students' feedback to adjust the teaching. After I observe the students' interactions, I ask them at the end of each lessons how they felt about the lessons, and to point out their favourite part, and what they would like to do next. From that I add different ideas to make sure I keep the excitement going! Last year before the end of term, I visited classes and I asked students about what they would like to learn in the next academic year. All students' suggestions were noted and incorporated in the curriculum planning.
Are there any specific goals you would like to achieve in your career?
I would like to spread more awareness about the importance of music education for young children. Music has amazing benefits on students with all abilities. I will always work hard to make sure it reaches out to as many students as possible in this world. My dream is to open centres that provide free music lessons, workshops, art, and reading to all children specifically in the Middle East!
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