Studio Whiteboard Project: Extended Edition

Several days ago, I gave an end-of-lesson incentive to one of my squirmy little pianists. If she could get through some focused music reading, she would be rewarded with sixty whole seconds at the whiteboard at the end of her lesson. She chose to write about how great her “techear” is. The techear is me, which makes me beam, but also makes me want to release my inner grammar nazi, which isn’t so inner these days. My grandma passed on her penchant for proper language to me. She is a retired school principal, and a PhD at that. She’s of the “don’t end a sentence with a preposition” school of thought (for example, “where is it at?”…ew). My grandma’s comical solution is to just add a comma and the word “asshole” after the fact, which straightens things out (“where’s it at, asshole?”) but probably doesn’t leave us in people’s best graces. I love my grandma.

I digress. This week, I took the whiteboard thing a step further and all of my students got some one-on-one time in with some infamously odoforous dry-erase markers. My only parameter was they had to draw appropriate things, which unfortunately meant no racist jokes, but believe you me, I was thinking them and only half-chuckling in real life.

If I were in public schools, I’d be made to show exactly which state and national standards this activity addressed by playing a thrilling round of Buzzwords In Flight. You know, that game teachers play to appease the latest political-educational trends and prove that they are doing things other than counting M&Ms and watching Frozen in school. This is the game where the winning terms are “research-backed,” “assessment,” “differentiated instruction” or, everyone’s recent favorite, “common core.” It really is all about the students, isn’t it?

You will notice that the reigns of my career are held by none other than yours truly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So as it turns out, I just don’t care if having my students draw pictures on a dry-erase board is trite. This was for fun, an open-ended experiment that helped paths emerge. I also figured it was high time to break up the monotony of my student’s routines; they’ve been hitting the sight-reading pretty hard as of late. Plus, I personally am driven to change up my teaching or do something new every 5-6 weeks or so. Otherwise, it becomes increasingly difficult to silence the voices in my head telling me to bang my skull against the wall until I bleed out.

I don’t do well with repetition (unless it’s practicing)…

So this is what my students drew:

I love food, too. That will never go away, kids.
I love food, too. That will never go away, kids.


  • The reference to Melvin the Metronome (lower left)
  • The sweet and freakishly accurate (and totally eyeballed, I might add) Disney princess caricature (upper right)
  • The Lovely Bunch of Coconuts lyrics (still feel like that song might be about boobs)
  • The Tardis. The doctor is proud.
  • The word “glowing-ier.” This is an adjective I used to describe what I heard, resonance-wise, to one of my adult students, Polly. My exact words were “that was a lot more…glowing…y….er..than last time.” We immortalized the term. It’s whiteboard official.

Pondering future variations of this experiment have gotten me thinking on building studio culture. The wheels are only just turning, but the possibilities are endless.

Teaching is fun.

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