The Voice: Spring 2003
Band students learn by doing
By: Andrew De Jong
For two days a week last semester, the seven students in Dr. Henry
Duitmans Instrumental Music Education class stopped being students and became teachers. On Tuesdays
and Thursdays members of the class traveled with Duitman to Hull Christian grade
school to direct Hulls fifth grade band.
This has never been done before, says Duitman. We decided to try something
Duitman got the idea for the new format while talking to Dordt College
graduates who are now involved in music education. Last spring, as part of
his sabbatical, he visited several graduates who now teach music, sharing ideas and
talking to them about the challenges of teaching.
I did a lot of thinking during my sabbatical semester, he says. One
thing that kept coming back to me was how important it was for
our students to get into the classroom as soon as possible. Although music
education students have always had student teaching experiences, Duitman felt they would benefit
from additional time in the classroom.
Coincidentally, Hull Christian school also had a needthey needed someone to teach their
fifth grade band.
Our music teacher position is hard to fill since its very part-time, says
Ryan Zonnefeld (96), the principal of Hull Christian and a former student of
Dr. Duitman. Initially Zonnefeld had planned to direct the band himself in addition
to his responsibilities as principal. But when Duitman came to him with his
idea, he jumped at the chance.
We had a need, and they filled it, says Zonnefeld. The students loved
it, and the parents were thrilled.
But the Dordt College students, it seems, have benefited the most from the
practice at Hull Christian. Duitman, who has taught Instrumental Music Education for many
years, believes that the experience these students had is far more valuable than
a semester of lectures.
In the past, I never really had a chance to see them use
the techniques that I was teaching them, he says. This time, when I
would do something in the classroom, they could try it out for themselves.
At the beginning of the semester, Duitman directed the fifth grade band, but
as the semester wore on, the students gradually took control. Even the short
ride to and from Hull Christian was valuable, Duitman says, since they were
able to discuss teaching strategies and their effectiveness during the ride.
The students, most of whom are student teaching this semester, will readily testify
to the value of their experience at Hull Christian.
According to Lori Philipsen, a senior from Modesto, California, Its just helpful to
get in front of students. Philipsen found it especially beneficial since she is
presently assigned to a fifth grade class.
It really gave me a better feel for teaching that age, she said.
Teaching fifth grade is a unique experience, because youre not just directing, youre
There are no plans to continue the arrangement in the near future, but
both Duitman and Zonnefeld say that they would love to do it again
if the opportunity presents itself.
They got to test their teaching skills, and we got someone to
teach our students, says Zonnefeld. It was a win-win situation.