Lessons in teaching music

Isabel Pongratz ’20 teaches chorale at Wayland (Mass.) High School 

Hometown: Wayland, Mass.
Majors: Theater, English
Winternship: Music department at Wayland High School
Funding source: Porter Cleveland Fund

Learning from an alumna: “I’ve always wanted a hands-on opportunity that allowed me to really understand what being a teacher would entail. My high school choral teacher is Rachel Lueth Carroll ’92, an alum of Wheaton, who now is the choral and piano teacher at Wayland High School in Wayland, Mass. I knew she would be more than happy to allow me into her classroom to help.”

Warming up: “At first, I shadowed and observed Rachel. Then, she let me step in and try a few things myself. I led warm-ups in the classes ‘Chorale,’ ‘Piano’ and ‘Honors Concert Choir,’ using the Alexander Technique exercises [techniques to retrain habitual patterns of movement and posture]. I assisted in teaching music as well. I had to lesson plan and gain a better understanding of classroom management. Also, as part of the internship, I participated in some advisory planning meetings. At Wayland High School, there is a 25-minute advisory block once per week where students from all different grades meet and participate in some sort of co-curricular activity or discussion.”

Putting in energy: “Certain classes had very outgoing students who were excited to learn, while other classes had students who weren’t as engaged or enthusiastic. I had to be creative with activities and have a lot of energy to make the students feel more comfortable participating. Rachel gave me a better understanding of how to read students by their behavior and adjust to what happens in class based on how the students are feeling that day.”

Breathing more easily: “One time, after I led an Alexander Technique type exercise, I asked the students how they felt and whether they liked the exercise. The responses from the students were incredible. They all loved the exercise; they said it helped them connect more with their breathing, feel more grounded and relieve some of their stress about exams. One student even said they would try to do it again themselves in the future because they liked it so much. Knowing that I could influence people’s lives in such a positive way is what made this whole experience worth it.”

Seeing what fits: “This internship gave me a real-life experience that I was able to handle because of everything I learned at Wheaton, but now I can grow even more. This will help me with long-term goals, because it helped clarify a lot for me. It helped me realize what parts of teaching were amazing and what parts I would struggle with. Overall, the knowledge of not just the subject but what it means to be a teacher is really going to help me pave the way for my future.”

Isabel previously participated in an internship at MCI Norfolk as a teaching assistant and clerical intern. She also received funding from Wheaton to serve as the production intern at ImprovBoston. She sings with the Wheaton Whims and is a May Fellow.

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