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Teaching Philosophy

Michael Pollard
The University of Utah

Meanie the Cow

I once heard a story of a farmer and his milk cow named Meanie. The nephew of the farmer gave
this name to the cow because simply put, she was mean. She did not like to be milked. In fact, in
order to milk Meanie, the farmer had to tie her legs and head to the fence so she would not
attack. One day the nephew asked, Why is Meanie so mean? To which the farmer replied,
She thinks shes a range cow and ought to be running wild. The nephew then said, So why
dont we let her be a range cow and run wild? The farmer then responded emphatically, Shes
not a range cow, shes a very good milk cow. She just doesnt know yetwe are trying to teach
her (S. Michael Wilcox, 2009, Discovering the Wonder of Ourselves and Others).

I use the above story to illustrate my greatest responsibility as a teacher.

As a teacher, my greatest responsibility lies in helping students unlock
their potential to find out what kind of person (cow) they are meant to
be. As this discovery occurs, students then have the potential to be
successful in all aspects of their life.
The Music Classroom
My initial goal as a teacher is to help students become good people and successful contributors to
society. Secondly, my goal is for students to learn to love music and become excellent musicians.
It is my opinion that the music classroom is one of the best environments for students to learn
how to become good citizens. This environment truly changed me in my youth, and I love
watching it shape the lives of those I teach. This is my greatest passion in life.
Teaching Strategies
I am currently a student teacher at Farmington Junior High School in Farmington, Utah. I teach
300 students in eight different music ensembles: three percussion ensembles, three concert
bands, and two jazz ensembles. I am also a private music instructor on percussion/drums, piano,
guitar, and bass. A couple of years ago I worked as a percussion instructor at Alta High School
and have also worked with various orchestras and choirs. The large class sizes and individual
demands of each instrument make teaching music the ultimate multitasking activity. I am able to
adapt my lessons to fit the needs of all learning styles; aural, visual, and kinesthetic styles just to
name a few. Through both individual and group instruction, I strive for my students to be
engaged always. I choose music for the students to perform that is exciting and engaging. I also
use current technology, apps, and software, which are very relevant to the rising generation.
Benefits of a Music Class
The life lessons learned in a music class are second to none. Students learn that hard work is fun
and rewarding. Public school in teenage years can be very socially traumatic. The students
receive a sense of belonging in a music class, a feeling of importance. They are able to take the
hard work they have learned and apply it to all school subjects. They learn how to work as a

team to achieve something beyond what they can do themselves. Yes, these lessons help them
become great musicians. However, it extends far beyond that. The benefits of a music class have
far-reaching effects into the everyday lives of the students, both today and in the future.
Failure and Success
From my personal experience as a performer and teacher, failure is inevitable while learning a
musical instrument. Accepting the failure and learning from it begins the process of becoming
successful. I know that my students are learning when they pick themselves up from their
mistakes, and begin to conquer them.
In Conclusion
Although I have taught music for quite some time, I did not grow up seeing myself become a
full-time music educator. A few months prior to my high school graduation, I had a life-changing
conversation with my high school band director. He was someone who saw the kind of person
(cow) that I could become, even when I could not see it in myself. He asked my what my plans
were for college. I said, I have no intention to go to college. The only thing I like is music and
we both know I could never have a future as a musician. He quickly disagreed and strongly
encouraged me to try at least one year as a music major. Because I trusted him and the potential
he saw in me, I went for it. Here I am today, just a few years later, with the feeling that I could
do nothing else to feel fulfilled in life. It is my greatest desire to be that teacher for a future
student of mine, who cannot realize their wonderful potential.