Geoff Gould is the most inspiring teacher I've ever met. His enormous commitment to music education is impressive and has captured the Grammy's Awards attention. He was one of the 10 Music Education Grammy Awards finalists this year, which is a huge deal! He has an innovative perspective, a philosophy, which is worth listening to.
I want to share a little of the wisdom of this pedagogue who has two decades of experience in music education.
His story in music begins at an early age (7 years old) with the piano. Music has always been a pillar in Geoff's life, but it was during his first year of college that he had the calling that would determine his life.
"Becoming a music teacher seemed like this natural fit in my life"
Understanding his purpose, he pursued his studies in the University of Southern Maine School of Music. He has been part of two public educational systems on the USA. First, he teached at Westfield School, Massachusetts and currently teaches at Swift River Elementary School, Belchertown (his hometown).
His years of experience and analysis have led him to develop a whole methodological teaching technique. Geoff's brand of music education has been built through technology, outreach, civil engagement, and sense of community.
Changing the education paradigm
According to Geoff, music education must adapt to social change in a given time and context, not the other way around. He has a very curious mind, which is constantly thinking of ways on how to engage students with music.
This is especially relevant to the current situation. It is difficult for many teachers to find ways to stay close to their students during remote learning. Before delving into online teaching, I want to talk to you about some lessons that Geoff designed to adapt music education to remote learning.
1."Celebrating Ella Fitzgerald's life"
This lesson was meant to introduce kids to jazz music. For this, Geoff, using Flat for Education asked his kids to watch the video of Ella Fitzgerald singing One note samba.
Geoff made a biography research on her and prepared talking points to discuss with the class. Also, he attached on the Flat's stream class a backing track of Jazz on D for the students to scat along with it. Then, he invited the kids to post a video of them scatting on the Flat's stream class.
2."At home fun with Google Maps"
For this lesson Geoff sent his students self-guided to find important places for music history on Google Maps. He asked for the students to find The Carnegie Hall and draw a picture of it. Also, to find Beethoven's childhood home in Barn, Germany. This was the portal to talk to his student about Beethoven and his musical legacy.
"They are actually lifting off the planet and zooming themselves all around the globe finding these new and enriching places"
Role of music education on society
Music education goal is much more than teaching music. Learning music enables the development of many skills: Creative thinking, problem-solving skills, language facility are some examples.
According to Geoff, music education goes beyond enhancing individual skills. Music is the anchor that makes us connect with our inner self and the bridge that connects humanity. He estates that music education allows us to be better people, to be more civically engaged, and enables connections with diverse people.
Geoff mentioned the positive impact that music education has on people's emotional intelligence. Music allows us to connect with our deepest emotions and to understand them, which develops our sense of empathy. Music is also a safe space where you get to express yourself. These two aspects are vital to learning how to relate healthily with others.
The impact this will have on the quality of life and mental health of the future adults is undeniable.
Music teachers as fire starters
Geoff teaches 1st grade to 3rd grade. This puts him in a very decisive position for the lives of these children. Having students at this early age is really empowering for Geoff because he is the one who gets to light the fire and set them off on the right trajectory.
''These are the most enthusiastic, excited, and happy students you will ever meet in your life. They want music in their lives every single day''
Light the fire means to teach the kids to be daring, confident, to step out of the shade, and to think differently. And to do so, you also must dare and step out of the shade yourself.
That is Geoff's mandate. It is not just about teaching notes, harmony, etc., a teacher must build culture. A teacher must develop lessons that ask people to be dynamic, to educate people to be willing to try new things, to create a sense of community and civic engagement.
COVID world and remote learning
COVID has changed everything, including education. These are challenging times for educators, especially music educators.
How can you keep the momentum going on with students?
Geoff thinks that online education cannot just be a lecture, it can't be a video, it must be ENGAGEMENT. And the best way to do this is to plan your class with anticipation, to see what your options are, and redesign what you were meant to do at school. His advice is not to ignore the enrichment possibilities that can make kids engaged.
"Remote learning is here to stay. We have to be ready to adapt even if we do go back to school"
At this point my question for him was: how can we keep the human warmth while online teaching?
You need to understand that it is not the same to teach at school and to teach online. It is a completely new way of communicating, and you need to make sure that the screens are not getting in the way of the students' learning. The clue is to be adaptable, be flexible, and always keep the students first.
"Nothing in this career has anything to do with the adults, it's all about the kids. If you focus on them, what their needs are, what uplift them, and give them a positive experience, I don't think you are going to go wrong"
Education and technology
Integrating technology in education is imperative, especially with the current situation we are facing. This is something Geoff has been doing for a while; technology is a big piece of his teaching, and that's why he became a certified ISTE teacher.
The ISTE certification is for educators focuses on the use of technology to transform learning, helping the teachers to rethink and redesign learning activities with technology.
When talking about technology with Geoff, his best advice is to choose the right tool. A tool that serves the students and the teacher. Otherwise, it will not work, and you will lose precious time.
The greatest challenge for Geoff is that he works with kids that are just initiating themselves on the use of technology. There is usually a big learning curve when you decide to use a technological tool with young kids. And Flat for Education has been the right tool for him: it helped Geoff to maximize every minute he has with his students while minimizing this learning curve.
"Flat truly has changed and morphed the way I do teaching in every lesson of the year"
Flat for Education
The link between Geoff and Flat has a long journey. At first, Geoff and his children were individual users of Flat. When he found out Flat created an educational platform, he moved his students to Flat for Education. And he has been teaching with Flat for Education ever since.
Some of the reasons he chose and keeps using our platform are:
- It takes the students 3 clicks from when they sing in on Google to be in their Flat for Education Dashboard, ready to compose or to work on an assignment.
- You can see your students' work whenever you want, jump in on their compositions and help them built it from home.
- Instant feedback.
- It has a deep system of tools set for students and it is not afraid of being simplified to the point where a child 7-8-9 old can pick it up and make ground with it.
- It is quick, fluent, and adaptable. Even in a 45 min class, you can go to that next deeper level.
- The recent Flat for Education update is even more logical for kids.
"Even with this new Covid World that we are living in, I can assign something for them sitting right here in my office and still have meaningful deep discussions about what we are creating together, student by student"
This makes all the work of many years and so much effort worthwhile
One of the most important principles for Flat for Education is simplicity. We strive to make our platform as intuitive as possible. And it fills us with happiness and gratitude to know that children as young as Geoff's students are using the platform. It means the world to us.
Concluding thoughts: how to remain motivated as a music educator
"Remember your path. If you've made it this far, if you've studied music education, you've done the hardest academic work you'll ever have to do in this profession. Now it's all about the children. The teachers are at the service of the integral formation of the students."
Leave a mark, make a statement, build a program
"I am not going to let something like a global pandemic slow down my ideas and stop looking for my opportunity"
To remain motivated, Geoff suggest focusing on what your opportunities are right now, instead of wasting energy thinking about what have brought us to this point (this COVID situation). It is vital to think big and to come up with something interesting, something that changes the way we understand and practice music education.
"All music teachers everywhere: keep thinking big, and keep being the most flexible group of educators that you can possibly be"
I have nothing left to say but to thank Geoff for sharing his pedagogical wisdom.
Thanks to all those great music educators who have leaved a mark and inspired so many children, as I once was.
The complete interview is available on our YouTube channel: