Olivia Wehrung is a graduate student in our Masters of Art in Teaching program. She graduated from Trinity with a Bachelorette degree in Music Education. During her time as a college student, she participated in many other music programs on campus, such as the Trinity University Chamber Singers and the Trinity University Acabellas. She also worked as the assistant for the Trinity University choir. We sat down with Olivia and talked about the importance of music education in curriculum and development, in addition to her experience in the program.
Q: It seems like music is a big part of your life. Was there a moment where you realized that was what you wanted to study?
A: When I was trying to figure out what it was that I liked, I think it was junior year, and I was asking one of the theater teachers how they became a teacher and they said that they were a theater major and became a teacher. Music Education is a common degree of study so it was like there you go.
Q: Can you share the moment or incident you realized that you wanted to be a teacher?
A: It was the beginning of high school, and experiences like engineering and doctors never really interested me. I’ve been working with kids for a long time with babysitting, camp counseling, all those things. It was less of a decision; it was just all of the life choices that I have made. Teaching seemed like the only thing that fit what I wanted to do.
Q: What ages are you working with at your placement school?
A: So I just moved to my middle school placement, so I'm working with 11 to 14 year olds.
Q: How do you adapt the music curriculum to multiple grade levels? Tell me what you’ve learned so far.
A: Fortunately, Texas is a good state to be a music educator in. They have very specific standards for each level, from elementary school to high school. It can be flexible but it’s very experiential. You learn about things in digestible chunks and we start with things like beat in elementary school and in middle school, you specialize. It’s either specifically with voice or with an instrument. Just like everything else, it’s learned in bite size chunks.
Q: Many schools are cutting art and music from their curriculum. Tell me why you think music is important for learning.
A: Music makes you smarter because when you participate in music, either music listening or music making, you’re engaging many parts of your brain at the same time that aren’t engaged at the same time in any of your standard subjects. There’s a lot of value in that; you can be creative and analytical at the same time. You’re listening and constantly adapting to what you’re hearing.
Q: Why did you choose the MAT program at Trinity? Was there anything specific that interested you?
A: The MAT program is what brought me to Trinity as an undergrad. I liked the continued study of music education beyond undergrad in that there was a whole year dedicated to learning just how to be a good teacher. The fifth year, I practiced everything that I learned and I liked the idea. I knew I would get a very solid foundation in teaching and it continued to be the right step for me.
Q: Will you share an “aha” moment you experienced in one of your graduate education classes?
A: Teaching is such a deeply personal thing because you can try to separate yourself as much as you want to, but it’s not a 9-5 corporate job: you are a teacher. Teaching is in your soul; if you love it that much and if you want to be a good teacher, every part of you is a teacher.
Q: How is graduate school different from undergrad?
A: Undergrad was a lot of time for exploring things about yourself and your interests and in grad school, you’re interested in one thing and it’s all about that one thing. I really enjoy it because it’s what I want to be doing.
Q: Do you have any advice for anyone considering taking the MAT program at Trinity?
A: It’s gonna take a lot of mental and emotional energy because being a teacher takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. By expending that energy, you’re going to grow a lot as a person and a teacher. If you don’t get what the point is, stick with it, you’ll figure it out. It might not be for you at this moment in your life but it could be later. Treat this more as a learning experience and less of a sentence for the rest of your life.
If you would like to learn more about the Master of Arts in Teaching graduate program, sign up for our next info session: https://trinity.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0udu-oqD8iHdUbUrY8j1Y3rYEiQqehcFau or email us at email@example.com.