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Focusing on Human Interaction

Creating a Teaching Artist Philosophy is an opportunity to think deeply about how our own perspectives and past experiences in music making influence how we teach and what we pass on to our students.  We took some time to chat with 2022 LAB cohort member, Elizabeth LaPeer, Flutist and Teaching Artist at Kalamazoo Kids In Tune, about her process of developing her own teaching philosophy.

TATI: What started your teaching journey?

Elizabeth: A bunch of my siblings are musicians. My older sister is a violin teacher and connected me with Kids In Tune several years ago. When I first started, it was really challenging and I wasn’t sure if teaching was the right fit for me. But, I stuck it out and started falling in love with the students and the teaching process… I’ve started focusing more on human interaction instead of just teaching notes. That’s what keeps me growing, searching, and maturing as a teacher.

TATI: What do you feel has shaped or influenced your approach to teaching?

Elizabeth: Every teacher I’ve ever had has shaped my approach; it’s what I know and have found to work (or not work). Throughout my upbringing, my parents, friends, and teachers each influenced me in positive ways, which has encouraged me to consider how I can motivate my students in similar ways. It’s so important to look at the different things you need along the way and understand the student as a whole and see what they need right now.

Elizabeth’s Teaching Philosophy

I will create a safe environment.

As a teacher, it is my responsibility to foster a learning environment that is safe for students. They must feel free to be themselves, express themselves, explore, ask questions, experiment, try, fail, laugh, and create. In order for a safe space to develop, there need to be expectations set and trust established. This trust must be protected and built through consistency of character, love, and actions. 

I will approach each student as a whole and as an individual.

I recognize that my students are human. I am not only engaging with them mentally, but also physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I will strive to be aware of each of these areas and acknowledge their unique needs, which are ever evolving. I also recognize that who my students are as individuals is complex and intricate. I know that every student will come from a different walk of life, will have a different learning style, a different learning pace, and a different way of optimally absorbing instruction. It is my goal, as a teacher, to be sensitive and discerning of these differences, to ask rather than assume, and to seek to meet the needs of each area of their human makeup. I will ensure the creation of unique milestones for each student, enabling them to thrive within the context of their unique learning environment. 

I will strive to teach a positive relationship with music.

To teach a positive relationship is to demonstrate and create positive interactions. I will focus on the ways in which both playing music and experiencing music is valuable, having the ability to move us in profound ways, to change the energy of our environment, to express, share, and release our emotions, and to connect us to one another. My goal is to build a positive association with music for each student, providing positive and meaningful experiences that impact how they think and feel about music. Through these positive interactions, I hope to offer each student the joy of feeling capable, motivated, and inspired through music. 

I will teach how to learn. 

I aim to inspire my students with the love of learning and to teach them how to learn. I believe that the skill of learning is only truly realized when it can be applied to each and every facet of one’s life.  Learning must not stay in the classroom, but be recognized as a gift that keeps on giving, if one will only take the time to cultivate and water it with curiosity, experimentation, and the willingness to fail. 

I will give the “why” for each activity to ensure my students are equipped to strive for excellence”

I believe that students will glean significantly more if they are led to understand the goal and outcome of what they are asked to do, as well as the consequences of that which I ask them not to. I feel that it is my responsibility to have answers to as many “why’s” as they are compelled to ask. In order to build mutual trust and relationships, each student’s curiosities should be honored and heard. This allows them the opportunity to see the intention and heart behind the instruction and know that their best interests are always my priority. I will assume the responsibility of humbly pursuing any “why’s” that I am currently incapable of answering, in order to equip students with practical, foundational knowledge that will naturally spark and stimulate their desire to learn, leading them down the road toward excellence. 

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