During the 2015-2016 school year, Sean Mulholland led weekly guitar classes at 32nd Street School and St. Vincent school and although he was the instructor, he sometimes felt more like a student!
While teaching his students, who ranged from 5th to 8th grade, Sean felt a steep learning curve. “I had only taught one-on-one lessons before, so moving to a classroom setting was a big change,” said Sean. Over the course of the year, Sean realized the importance of hands-on experience and rote learning in his lessons. When asked how his teaching style had evolved, Sean said, “Throughout the semester, the classes have been talking less and playing more,” which he claimed proved more effective for his classroom teaching. According to Sean, “Sometimes you just have to stop talking and show them instead.”
Sean found this new teaching technique also benefitted his private lessons. He remembered using a lesson plan from his 32nd Street School Guitar class with one of his private adult students. Sean recalled, “The lesson was more fun, and he learned so much more!”
While Sean was experiencing the duality of being both teacher and student, he saw a similar experience in some of his students. Sean said, “Before class even started, they’d review with each other and help anyone catch up if they missed a class or forgot part of the lesson.” The communal aspects of his classes and the willingness of his students to help each other pleasantly surprised him.
In addition to the challenge of altering his teaching style, Sean found it difficult to keep the classroom’s momentum going since most of his students didn’t have instruments at home to practice on in between classes. Despite these difficulties, the student’s enthusiasm to learn kept Sean inspired. “They are so excited by every song I announce. I think they are just really enthusiastic about the instrument in general.”
Sean graduated with his Master of Music degree in Guitar Performance in the spring of 2016 and although he is no longer working with Thornton Outreach, the effects of his exceptional teaching are still visible in our school communities.
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