Teaching Transformation: My Experience as a Postgraduate Teaching Fellow

We would like to thank Savannah Royston for this insightful article on The New School for Music Study’s Postgraduate Teaching Program. Want to learn more about the Postgraduate Teaching Program? Learn more and apply by clicking here.

The New School for Music Study.

When I began the Postgraduate Teaching Program at The New School for Music Study, I knew three things: I knew that I loved teaching, I knew that I wanted a career in teaching, and I knew that I desperately needed guidance if I was going to make that dream a reality. Little did I know how this program would impact my teaching, my career, and myself as a person.

1. I learned tremendously through this year-long PRACTICUM.

In a conversation at the beginning of my experience, the educational director referred to this year as an extended practicum, which I would soon discover to be an apt label. When I moved here, I was fresh out of graduate school, brimming with a multitude of pedagogical ideas from my graduate courses. Although I was lucky enough to have had some teaching experience even while enrolled as a full-time student, this fellowship was a unique position for me because for the first time in my life, my main priority every day was my piano students. I was able to see firsthand how all of the pedagogical tools lining my teacher tool belt would play out in real time. As with all of life, anything theoretical becomes an entirely new experience when nestled within the person sitting across from me. I learned how to plan effectively and efficiently, as well as what to do when plans are derailed. I learned how to respond to unexpected behaviors, obstacles, and attitudes. I learned how to go from working with young children, to adults, and every age in between. I learned how to teach group classes and how to develop classroom management strategies. As I try to summarize an entire year in a few sentences, I realize that I cannot overestimate how transformative this practicum was to all aspects of my teaching.

2. I gained a vibrant community of PEOPLE.

After beginning my year at the New School, I realized that all of the rumors I had heard about the school were true—the faculty really are a tight-knit community of kind people who look out for each other in any way they can. As a young teacher who moved alone to a region of the country where I knew no one, these people became my network of support instantaneously. If I ever had questions, I learned quickly that I could ask any of my coworkers. Regardless of what was happening, they would take a moment out of their busy schedule to help me find a book, locate a teaching manipulative, or wrestle with our feisty printers. Every single employee at the school has a wealth of knowledge and expertise that they share generously. The New School is a vibrantly varied community, as we have teachers at every level of experience, none more vital or irreplaceable than the next.

3. I developed a PASSION for teaching.

When I graduated from school, I knew that I loved teaching, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved teaching. I had been given glimmers of this during my graduate school experience, but I had no idea what lay in store for me over the course of this year. I have seen my students laugh and cry, feel joy and frustration, experience surges and declines in motivation, and so many other aspects of the human experience—all reflected in a simple piano lesson. I have seen my students grow in skills and expertise, learning new pieces and advancing into new books. I have seen my students prepare for the rigors of performance and score extremely well in festivals. But most importantly, I have seen my students grow in confidence, blossoming into individuals who feel capable, empathetic, and brave, knowing that they can rise to the challenge. If my students learn how to meet challenges with bravery and empathy, then who knows how they are going to change the world beyond their piano lessons.

All in all, this year has transformed me in profound, meaningful ways that I am still discovering. As I step into the future, I move forward knowing I now have a wealth of practical experience, a network of people cheering me on, and an undeniable passion for the beauty of teaching. As an educator working to help others and change the world for the better, I often reflect on this wise quote from the philosopher Confucius: “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”

Learn more about teaching and professional development opportunities at The New School for Music Study by clicking here.

Originally from East Tennessee, Savannah began studying piano with her grandmother when she was six years old. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Master of Music and a Bachelor of Music from Lipscomb University. Her former teachers include Paul Barnes, Jerome Reed, and Elisabeth Pridonoff. Beyond teaching piano, Savannah has extensive experience in arts administration and is currently the Executive Director for the Cutting Edge Concert Series.

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