It’s a sound byte and catchy headline world out there. Especially in education.

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It’s all about quick hits, sound bytes, and catchy headlines, isn’t it? This is how society seems to operate at all levels now. We are only interested in reading those things that have a catchy headline, and we are quickly taken in by inspirational sound byte education. But do we look deeper in to the sound byte or headline? Or do we just take the little nugget of information and run with it… I will be the first to admit that when presenting a session or guest conducting, the sound byte and catchy session title are important.

When I want to get a session ready to submit to a conference, I am well aware that it must have a catchy title. It is part of the game. To me the content of the session is never hard to get down, but I always worry the title won’t be splashy enough to get the attention of the committee reviewing the content. And be honest, the splashy title gets you in the door of the session when you are at a conference, and there is nothing wrong with that. Once in that session, make sure you dig deep in to what is actually happening though. There will always be great content in the session, but as a participant you need to look past the catchy phrases and inspirational sound bytes. Those catchy phrases and inspirational sound bytes are wonderful, but don’t help in the long run past an initial motivational blast. Take notes! Write things down beyond what is on the handout… Dig deep in to the session content and come away not only inspirationally motivated, but also driven to improve your content knowledge in the area, and your desire to pursue the content past the session. How can the deeper content help you and your students? Isn’t that what it is all about?

Don’t get me wrong, I look for catchy phrases and inspirational sound bytes to add a little flare to my sessions, and love breaking out the funny but educational phrases and stories at honor bands and clinics, but I make sure there is content beyond that. Those should be the hook, and not the full story. I love a good story as much as the next guy,  but there needs to be more.

I think this is not just a music education problem, but a problem in a lot of areas! We need to stop just looking at headlines and sound bytes, and start digging deeper. Social media allows us to just throw up a headline, and I often wonder how many people really read the content of what they are posting. How many people look at the content and explore it to see whether it is even true or not? Why do we let education exist the same way?

To me the best part of education is exploring and expanding content knowledge, not just trusting everything that comes out of someone’s mouth (including my own…) I make sure to tell my students that I am not telling them everything, and definitely am not teaching them the 100% most effective way for them to teach in every environment. What am I doing as a teacher?  I am hopefully giving them the tools to expand their knowledge and the ability to adapt and learn on the fly as their environment changes. I hope I am giving them the tools and the foundation to grow in any teaching environment. And I hope I am challenging them to not accept everything they hear. I hope I am giving them the ability to figure out when something is opinion, and enough courage to challenge that opinion (in a respectful way, or does that even happen anymore?) if it does not feel right to them. And we aren’t always right…

But hey, this is my opinion. Feel free to disagree with any part of the above post.

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