Recent attendance at a Symphony Orchestra performance prompted me to think about the role of the orchestra's conductor and how this role has some similarities with the role of a teacher.
Consider the parallels: the conductor of an orchestra manages a disparate group of musicians; each person in the orchestra has specific strengths, interests and skills. Members of the orchestra are all working from the same musical score; however, each has different musical talents, plays a specific instrument and becomes actively involved in creating the music at different times. Some members are grouped with others who play the same instrument so they can perform together and there are musicians who are grouped according to their ability, strengths, skills and experience.
The conductor manages all the musicians in the orchestra as well as the orchestra's musical performance. The conductor has the overview of the musical score and of all the individual musicians' performances. Positioned out the front of the orchestra on a raised platform, the conductor conveys to the members of the orchestra what is required of them. There are soloists; individual musicians might have a leading role in certain sections of the orchestra's performance; however, the conductor leads the orchestra, signalling when individuals or groups of musicians should play, guiding the tempo and drawing from the orchestral performance the mood or way in which the conductor interprets the written music. Talented, experienced conductors bring forth the most sublime orchestral performances from the assembled musicians and their disparate instruments.
Teachers are like the conductor of an orchestra: Teachers have responsibility for a widely disparate group of students. Each member of a class has specific strengths, interests and skills. Utilising each person's talents is important; enabling individuals to demonstrate their personal capacities and skills in various situations is critical to enable personal growth. A teacher has the overview of the curriculum and can judge what individual students are able to do; however, it is the expression of individual talent that enables personal development of skills as well as group performance in tests and exams. A teacher leads a class, signalling academic expectations and encouraging the development of individual student's specific skills.
Teachers maintain a tempo of learning, making sure that requirements for optimal performance are clearly understood by each student. Each teacher has a personal style of teaching – just as conductors have a personal style of conducting and orchestra. Some are flamboyant, clearly expressing their personality throughout the performance and interpreting how the group in front can express the task, sensitively and in a manner that seems appropriate to the context. Whether a conductor or a teacher, their primary role is to develop personal skills and enhance performance.
© Michele Juratowitch