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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bah humbug, said the tired and unwilling class piano teacher.

We now come to that most breathlessly anticipated time of year:  exam and jury week.

As a grad student and class piano teacher, I get the distinct privilege of being a student and a teacher.  On Monday, I took a symphonic lit final.  Tuesday through Thursday I am observing and grading class piano individual exams; more on that in a minute.  And Thursday ends with my own piano jury.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Grading piano exams is jury-like.  I sit with my irritatingly-Rachel-Ray-like supervisor and one of the other class piano teachers, and we watch, notate, and when the student's finished, briefly confer to decide on a grade for each portion.

Let me explain my irritation with my supervisor.  It is of a most peculiar variety, and important to accurately describe. 
I do not deny that she has earned her doctorate, and I respect that.  No problems there.  But she is also our pedagogy professor.  My complete and utter lack of interest in pedagogy - seriously, I loathe the class and would rather burn all those stupid method books than teach kids from them - are no help to her in this case.  But she gives the impression of trying far too hard.  She's much too aware of pedagogical techniques, and she tries way too opaquely to use them in class.  She's too perky.  She takes half an hour to dispense three minutes' worth of information.  She does not seem to understand that assigning three separate projects during November is a poor choice for grad students who are tired, cranky, and impatient, not to mention unwilling students in a required class.  And she also doesn't seem to understand that while I hand in homework and do what she asks, keeping an A in the class, I don't give a rat's ass about anything she's teaching.  It has not dawned on her that I cringe at the mention of Bastien, Piano Adventures or Masterwork Classics.  Bleccch.  I don't like people who bore me with things I hate.

So now that you see from whence my grumpiness stems, imagine me sitting in a small office haggling over grades with this woman.  Dr. Rachel Ray has decided that each of the five portions of the final exam is worth 25 points.  Why she chooses to make the exam worth 125 points instead of 100, I will never understand.  It adds another round of math, since we have to divide every final score by 125 now to get the percentage so we can put it in with the semester grades.  I would have just made every part 20 points, and finished a step early.  But whatever.  Thank God for DMA's to save me from the ignorance of my ways. 

And she tries to fail my students on stupid things.  Then she tries to give her own students perfect scores for work which deserves maybe a B.  Here's my philosophy on grading:  a C means you did what was expected and it's OK.  A B means you did a really good, solid job.  If you want an A, you must do more than I expect and do it well.  In piano class, I will NOT give A's if you sit on chords instead of giving me a nice accompaniment pattern.  A monkey can sit on chords.  Playing them accurately does not constitute an A.  It is what I expect.  A student must exceed my expectations to get an A.  Le sigh.  Apparently Dr. Rachel Ray doesn't understand that. 

For what it's worth, Merry Christmas.  I attend a public university now.  There is not a shred of Christmas cheer in this building.  No big tree, no pretty lights, no lovely wreaths or sparkling garlands.  I don't even see paper snowflakes.  I feel so utterly un-Christmas right now.  And without Christmas, winter sucks.  It's just dark and freezing cold.  But I will say Merry Christmas because I CAN.

And I'm going home soon, where there is a tree too big for the living room we put it in, presents that really seem to materialize out of nothing more than Mom and Dad's pure love, and a beautiful glass Nativity scene in the little wooden barn Grandpa made for Mom and Dad's first Christmas together.

That's the real meaning of Christmas.

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