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Strategies for Effective Teaching: What Does it Mean to be a Leader in Music Class?

I was asked to present a session to pre-service college students at the 2016 Michigan Music Conference about what it means to be a leader in the music class. My field of research involves the investigation of sentient properties in great choral teaching. My findings suggest that great choral teaching includes being a leader in the classroom and beyond (Borst, 2002).

Leadership qualities can be defined in a myriad of ways. However, there appears to be a general consensus as to what those qualities are. While informally perusing the Internet for ideas re- garding the meaning of leadership, I found sev- eral articles that list the top 10 most important aspects of being a leader. A content analysis of four of the lists shows similar adjectives: hon- esty, integrity, sense of humor, empathy and the ability to persuade.

Scholarly research in music education portrays leadership in the music classroom through the lens of the teaching act. Most of the literature describe studies that aim to define teaching char- acteristics through observing teacher behavior and subsequent reactions of the students to that behavior. My research results suggest simi- lar attributes to those above. Emerging themes from my observations show that effective mu- sic teaching is multi-dimensional, including the development of personal professionalism, class climate, discipline strategies, teaching strate- gies and positive student-teacher relationships. There is a large body of literature that supports these findings. However, defining leadership characteristics, especially as it relates to music teaching, remains an elusive endeavor.

After 30 years of practicing in the field, men- toring student-teachers, and reading and writ- ing about what makes a great teacher-leader, I

James D. Borst, PhD

created a menu from which to pick and choose ideas about music teacher leadership qualities.

APPETIZER The first course to understanding the art of leadership.

In order to be a great leader in the music class- room, one must first be physically and mentally happy. This includes eating and drinking in a healthy manner, being physically fit and enjoy- ing solid relationships with partners and friends. It also means liking yourself, and knowing your personal limitations, strengths and weaknesses. Acting older than you are is a good practice to ensure that your professionalism is intact and observable.


Leadership is all about the presentation and how ful“filling” it can be.

1. Inspires and motivates others 2. Displays high integrity and honesty 3. Solves problems and analyzes issues 4. Drives for results 5. Communicates powerfully and prolifically 6. Builds positive relationships 7. Displays technical or professional expertise 8. Displays a strategic perspective 9. Develops others 10. Innovates

This is my own “short” list of traits that encom- pass successful leadership in the classroom. Teacher leaders are positive people who provide their students with love and understanding. In- terpersonal relationships play a vital role in ef- fective teaching. Leaders are friendly in spirit, compassionate and polite with whom they come into contact. They have strong moral fiber. Good



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