It’s All-State time! Time to improve our- selves and learn from others in the field. Time to develop new skills, refine old skills, and become a more effective, more efficient educator! Time for Kaizen!
Kaizen (Ky ‘ zen) is a Japanese term that means continuous improvement, taken from words ‘Kai’, which means continu- ous and ‘zen’ which means improvement. Some translate ‘Kai’ to mean change and ‘zen’ to mean good or for the better.
Kaizen is one of the most commonly used words in Japan. This term is mainly used in manufacturing companies to motivate managers and laborers to be efficient and effective in production. Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War, influenced in part by American business and quality management teachers who visited the country. It has since spread throughout the world and is now being implemented in many other venues besides just business and productivity. Kaizen is such a natural way for people in Japan to think that managers and workers often do not make a conscious effort to think “Kaizen.” They just think that way–an inner desire to be effective and efficient, and constantly looking for betters ways to so.
Many aspects of the philosophy fit per- fectly in the 21st Century Skills model of the 4Cs, especially “Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.” According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in the Arts (2004) “critical thinking and problem solving” are described as:
• Exercising sound reasoning in un- derstanding
• Making complex choices and decisions
• Understanding the interconnections among systems
• Identifying and asking significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions
• Framing, analyzing and synthesiz- ing information in order to solve problems and answer questions
To follow the Kaizen strategy means to make constant efforts to improve upon a standard. For Kaizen, standards exist only to be surpassed by better standards. Kaizen is really based on constant upgrading and revision. An excellent summation of the Kaizen philosophy is stated in the following quote:
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.
This quote is very pertinent to music edu- cators. Our journey to express thought and emotion through music (and help others to do so) is a constant growth process, whether it is as a performer, conductor, composer, teacher, scholar, etc. To be most effective in our field, we need to keep reflecting on what we do and improve upon it. As educators, this is a crucial point. Every class of students we meet each year is different from the last, and from any other class we have ever had. Everyone is different in their own way. Why would we teach everyone the same way then?
Our journey to be the best at what we do begins by reflecting on what we do, and learning how to be better. One way is to seek out others who may have a better paradigm. Learning from others is an excellent way to gradually improvement in what you do. Small changes. Gradual
improvements. This conference is the place to gather what you need to start your journey!
Here at All-State, as you attend sessions and meet with colleagues and other music educators, open your mind to new ideas. Reflect on “tried and true” methods, and then think how they can be improved. Evolve music education. Be a role model for your students. Constantly, gradually improve. Enjoy the conference!
P21.org (2004) 21st Century Skills Arts Map. Tucson, AZ: Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
Maurer, R. (2004) One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. New York: Workman Pub.
Mentoring Sessions at All-State 2011
Philip Hash Insuring our future: Mentoring student
teachers in the music classroom Friday, January 28
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. | CC-209
Richard Cangro How do you know they are learning?
Practical assessment strategies Friday, January 28
2:00 p.m.–3:15 p.m. | CC-202
Mentoring through Kaizen
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