One of my favorite things to boast about Oberlin when I participate in information sessions for prospective students is the plethora of opportunities for teaching. As a primarily undergraduate institution, Oberlin students receive opportunities to teach their peers that usually go to graduate students at larger institutions. When I was a senior in high school trying to decide which colleges to apply to and attend, this wasn’t on my radar in the slightest. I had no idea how many teaching positions I would get in college, and I certainly didn’t realize how profoundly they would shape my college experience and what I’m interested in doing after graduation. Here are five teaching and tutoring jobs I’ve held in my time here.
Music History 101 Teaching Assistant
Music History 101 is a course nearly every student enrolled in the Conservatory takes in their first few semesters. I took it my very first semester and it was my favorite course; it helped me get acclimated to how college worked in the way it was structured, and it sparked an interest in music history I didn’t realize I had. In the spring of my sophomore year, I started a position as a Teaching Assistant, which involved a lot of grading tests and quizzes, as well as holding weekly drop-in hours and group review sessions before exams. It was a bit of a leap for me going from being a good student who was interested in the material to a peer leader who was supposed to know all of the answers; I didn’t actually have any experience teaching at this point, but as I got my bearings with my responsibilities and how drop-in sessions would go, I found working with students and helping them succeed in a course I enjoyed positively delightful.
Secondary Lessons Instructor
One of Oberlin’s most unique course offerings is the secondary lessons program. Students of any level can audition to be placed with a student or faculty instructor either for credit or a small fee per half hour of instruction. In the fall of my fourth year, I had a student placed with me to receive secondary lessons, and it was a chance to teach music performance in a formal setting. Although I worked with this student for a fairly short period of time, I found that teaching someone else helped me improve my abilities as a player, and think more deeply about my practicing and performance methods.
Oberlin Arts & Sciences Orchestra Teaching Assistant
The Arts & Sciences Orchestra (also known as OASO) is Oberlin’s orchestra for College students and Conservatory students who wish to play in a large ensemble on an instrument they do not major in. The position I had as a Teaching Assistant was similar to teaching secondary lessons because I was doing instruction for music performance, but instead of having only one student, I was in charge of leading sectionals for all of the brass players. Because this semester had lower enrollment due to Covid, I also played on several of the pieces there weren’t enough horn players for. I had a great time working and playing with College musicians— especially the first-years who were making the leap from playing in high school band to performing in a physically distanced orchestra. Part of our virtual concert at the end of the semester included an awesome performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, which now has almost 10,000 views on YouTube.
One of the upper-level English courses I opted to take to complete my major was “Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines.” In this seminar-style course, we read lots of texts on writing pedagogy and tutoring techniques. In addition to the course itself, enrolled students would also get to work in the Writing Center, a space on campus where students can go to get peer help at any stage of the writing process. This could look like anything from brainstorming ideas to doing one last look at a final draft. I loved working in the Writing Center because every appointment was so different and collaborative; I worked with students on assignments for art history classes, environmental studies classes, graduate school applications, and more. You can read more about the Writing Center in a post Meredith wrote here.
Music Theory Jumpstart Teaching Assistant
This past summer, I was a teaching assistant for an online course called “Music Theory Jumpstart,” taught through a program called Oberlin Conservatory Global. This experience was one of my favorites, because I was teaching introductory-level music theory to students with various backgrounds— I really enjoyed the challenge of exploring different ways to explain concepts familiar to me in a manner that could be understood by someone with no musical experience. Many of the students enrolled were Oberlin alumni of various ages, so it was also fun to meet Obies and get to know them in small groups over the course of six weeks.