I had a great time at the Music Expo last week and I met so many wonderful people and caught up with lots of friends. It is a great place to do just that and also a great place to get some space and step away from school. We don’t do that enough as music teachers because we are always so full on with our jobs. In the lead up to Christmas I hardly came up for air and I was just totally engrossed in making sure I got everything done. So I do advocate some head space at times simply to think over your department.
Last week I really felt that music teachers are having a hard time. Schools are making cut backs, budgets are tight and numbers are low. Unfortunately we now have a clear landscape in music education and so we need to think about how we survive in this landscape and how we might start to change the future of music in this country. So here are a few points to think over in terms of what we can do in the face of there challenges:
- Join a national body like the ISM or MMA and get engaged with what is going on. Not only will this get you informed but it will also put you in touch with other teachers and music professionals. I would argue that this is way more important than being part of a teaching union – but I won’t have that conversation now. I am a member of both of these groups and I love feeling part of something bigger. Both do amazing things for music education.
- Join the numerous Facebook teaching groups. There is one for Key Stage 3 that I know of and then one for every exam board for GCSE and A-Level. These groups are great for sharing ideas and getting ideas. You can also share coursework and get opinions and ask people that all important question – what level do you think this solo is! I love these groups but I think the key thing is to engage with them – write on them and share ideas, however big or small.
- Go to events such as the Expo. Look at the dates in advance and get them in the diary of your SLT. The Expo 2018 is over a year away, so make sure you act NOW!
- Subscribe to Music Teacher Magazine and get reading. There is so much support in there and the online resources are amazing. Read it, write to it and engage with it! I love reading it every month and there is always something for me in there.
- Organise an evening out with local music teachers. Not an inset, or a training session, an actual evening out. Pick a pub somewhere central and just get together to chat. I admit this is not something I have done yet, but I plan on it! Maybe even invite peri staff or hub staff along! Just be sociable and get to know each other and then next time you need to pick up the phone and make a call it will be much easier!
- Get your students and parents on board. At the start of this year I made it clear to the students that we were going in to battle. Staff and budget cuts at my school have meant life is harder. But do you know what, this year we have done more, achieved more and brought in more money through fundraising. my students know the landscape and they help me to get through it. We pull together and they help so much! So without moaning, or being unprofessional, get your students and parents on board. But show them that you are not worried about what it going on! My SLT are hugely supportive of music, their hands are tied, but they support me 100%
- Use Twitter to engage with other music teachers. Hearing positive stories about what others are doing is really encouraging from me. If you follow me I promise you pictures galore and I love seeing what others are doing. Sometimes we just need that boost. So get following – @twbsmusic
- Same point as above, but use Instagram as well. I love seeing what is going on. When I am feeling down on low I am excited to see what another school might be doing, and it gives me ideas! I just feel that we need to spread the positive vibes of music teaching! Instagram – @windsormusic
- Work out what inspires you and make sure you do that. I know there is a movement on twitter about “Teacher5aday”. Maybe we as music teacher need to work out what inspires us and spread some of that. I like listening to music, going to hear music and I love watching musicals. They inspire me and fill me with ideas. I also like listening to students perform and so I make sure I have regular concerts. If you are not inspired by what you do then you need to be. You simply cannot succeed in this job if you don’t LOVE IT! That doesn’t mean it is always easy, but you will find it easier if you actually seek out enjoyment in what you do! TRUST ME!
- Every day you just need to keep going. Make sure you have something in every day that is fun and enjoyable. I love my lunchtimes in the music room where we aren’t rehearsing but we are just a music community. Rehearsals are always a highlight for me and I start every day with a rehearsal and I just find it makes the day go well.
So we have challenges and I think we are all in the same boat on that one. But we have to work out how to keep going. So I hope something from the above list might help you out in some way. Don’t be alone in this, but lets be positive eh! Lets try and push through for the good of our students and for the good of music education. We need to sometimes moan and we also mustn’t just stand by and let the government push us out! But ultimately on a daily basis what we need to do with work positively to improve music in our schools! So lets pull together, work together and support each other.
See you on Twitter, or at an event or in a group. Keep in touch and Keep going! Music education is worth it!