Alyson Shirk, Director of Arts
"As an educator you have to always be evolving. You have to know what your students can handle and where your students want to go."
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is about rigor, relevance and relationship. Rigor to me means delivering the highest level of academic instruction that your class can handle. As an educator you have to always be evolving. It’s tied to the relationship aspect because you have to know what your students can handle and you have to know where your students want to go. In the music curriculum there are certain concepts and skills that have to be taught, but there’s a lot of flexibility in that. We can use what we know about our students to help them move at the right pace. Then we tie the curriculum to things that are relevant to their lives, which makes it invigorating and exciting.
You see music from the Lower School to the Upper School. What is it like seeing how the different divisions approach musical education, and being part of that cohesive progression?
Each division also has its own culture and its own process. In the Lower School we have teachers who are extraordinarily trained in the Orff process, so students in the Lower School are getting wonderful experience creating music. In the Middle School there’s a new element that comes as the girls mature. Often, there is something about the maturity that comes in middle school that causes the girls to want to sing less. Mr. Twining is really well placed to help the girls grow their voices. The comprehensive choral program that I dreamed could happen at Bryn Mawr is happening, and not just on the choir risers – it’s also happening in the classroom.
You are also a Bryn Mawr parent. What is it like seeing the school from different perspectives?
I say this in public all the time, and it’s also true in private. This is a place that I choose to work and it’s a place that I choose to send my child. It’s a pleasure to do that. Seeing the inner workings of the school makes me even more excited to be a public face and a recruiter for The Bryn Mawr School. I can speak well as a parent and an educator.