• Karlene Marie Francis

A Teacher's Most Valuable Tools

I used to play make-believe with my friends and brother when we were little as many children did and hopefully still have the opportunity to do. My first choice of pretend was usually to play school teacher. I would act out the scene with an accuracy that mirrored my own classroom experience and guide my students' through the elementary stages of reading, writing and arithmetic. I really liked helping my little "class". Years later after graduation from a university music program, I decided to start teaching piano from my home and after that in school settings. I feel that teachers in any area should ultimately have mastery of the subject they are instructing or at least a very advanced knowledge. I had classical training on piano starting from a young age, and continued on with my study until I was 18 years old. I then figured out how to play contemporary styles so I could enjoy accompanying myself or others in popular music that we might hear on the radio or otherwise. I had initial encouragement to study classical voice in my last year of high school. The teacher who adjudicated me in a local music festival wanted me to study with her and so I did go to that school. Her initial encouragement was so important and if she had stayed a professor in the program while I was attending, she would have continued to gently, guide and support me in my learning and this approach would have been invaluable in many ways, especially through the self-doubt in my potential as a singer of the operatic and oratorio styles. Even though making music was an artistic medium that I gravitated toward as a form of emotional expression, the instruments that I learned through the school years, such as ukulele are not ones I would claim having mastery of today. I did work with dedication to make it to the A-Ukulele group directed by Kay Pottie and Chalmers Doane and at that point as a high school student, my peers and I were very advanced players. We were required to memorize all of our pieces some of which were quite complicated, using the picking techniques throughout many of the songs as opposed to only playing strumming accompaniment to our singing. We were expected to play in a fast tempo and accurately. I practiced a lot to maintain that standard and then after high school that wonderful musical experience ended. I turned my focus to gaining more technical ability on the cello and voice in college and the skills I had developed over decade learning the ukulele declined. Of all the teachers I've studied with over the years, the ones that made the best impression on me and had the most impact on my growth are those who really appreciated how much I wanted to master my craft as a musician and provided encouragement with a loving, open heart. They gave the best of themselves in every lesson and tailored each session to what was needed for my continued development as a professional and I am grateful. The mastery of their instrument combined with a true love of teaching was the perfect recipe for progress. These tools of heart, sincerity and mastery in one who is a teacher are such valuable gifts to the education community. When I teach, it also is my intention to be a supportive, encouraging presence to my students as they go through their unique process in development of their craft as music creators and self-realized beings in the world. Always, it is my honour and privilege to be a part of each journey.






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