I’ve taught audio engineering, music theory, musicianship, composition, synthesis, music analysis, and studio maintenance at the university level for over 30 years…actually since I was a graduate student at CSU Northridge in the mid 80s. These days I don’t teach music theory or harmony although I must say I miss doing that. Pretty much my entire teaching load focuses on audio engineering, audio production, digital media and the arts, and production strategies using digital media. Well, tomorrow summer vacation is over. A new semester starts and a new cohort of eager students will find their way around campus in search of their classes. Many will encounter me for the first time, while others being their second year of our program in Digital Media Arts.
Teaching is very fun and tremendously rewarding. In spite of being one of the older faculty members, I still enjoy educating a new group of students…and I feel privileged to be able to share my expertise and life experiences as a professional recording engineer with those seeking to enter the profession. Things are very different than when I started my engineering career but there are certain aspects of learning that remain the same. In the interest of helping the new students survive the DMA program at CSUDH in Recording Arts, here’s my top ten list for succeeding in Dr. Waldrep’s courses:
10. Show up – This one’s a no brainer but you would be surprised how many students don’t bother to come to class. I don’t include a textbook in my courses. All of the information the students need to know is delivered during the class. If you’ve not there…how do you expect to get the materials?
9. Be on time – believe it or not, I’ve had student show up 10, 30 or even 60 minutes late to a class. Plan your time accordingly. If you know it’s a long bus ride or that traffic is bad in the afternoon, plan for it. If I can make it to class on time, so can you. I’m saying that I haven’t been later but it’s rare occurrence.
8. Follow instructions – if I ask you to do something…just do it. And do it on time. This relates to homework, studying for a test, reading an outside source, listening to a piece of music, or anything else. If something is not clear, simply ask for help.
7. Don’t text or surf the Internet during class. I sometimes wish I had a huge mirror in the back of the classroom that would allow me to see what’s on the screens in front of the students. It’s really not that hard to see what’s got their attention. Texting under the table or moving your fingers around on the mouse pad are not so subtle indicators that you’re doing something unrelated to the class.
6. Ask questions – if the presentation of a new topic or subject isn’t getting through, ask for clarification. I’m happy to explain things again or come up with additional examples that might make something clearer. Don’t worry about seeming stupid or slow…if you’re questions become too much, I’ll meet with you privately in my office to help.
5. Review your notes between classes – when I was a student, this meant copying all of my written notes to another notebook and/or index cards. During the copying process, I would read the content out loud. This is a secret weapon in information retention. Flash cards and copying things over. I don’t mean typing them…writing them out long hand.
4. Collect questions from your studying for the next class – if you copy your notes, make flash cards, and something still isn’t clear, then write down a your questions and bring them to class. I always allow time for questions at the start of every class.
3. Don’t be afraid to visit me in my office during office hours or to reach out to me via email. I realize that I seem very intimidating…but if you take the time to visit and give it a chance, I think you’ll find that I’m very friendly and more than willing to help. Heck, I’ve rescued a student’s hard drive, taught most of a course during office hours to a foreign student and spent lots of time giving career advice. So come by…I’m not going to bite.
2. Be prepared every class period for a quiz. I hate to grade papers, but I’m not shy about giving pop giving pop quizzes during the first 5-10 minutes of class. It does several things…gets you to class on time AND keeps you current.
1. Get involved with your classmates. There are 30-50 other students trying to grasp the same information that you are…get friendly with them. Trade notes, set up study groups, swap flash cards, and join the DMA Facebook “success club”. I’ve noticed that students in my classes during the past few years are doing much better because of the FB groups. Post questions and share answers. Learning can be lots of fun…especially with a group.
So there you have it. This top ten list isn’t really in any special order. Just be responsible about being a student and you’ll do just fine. Here we go again…