The last few weeks have been crazy haven’t they! Music teachers up and down the country have been going into battle with coursework! Getting everything in, meeting the expectations of the new specifications and navigating the new approach to the admin side of things. Forms, mark schemes, file names, USB sticks and recordings! It isn’t easy for any of us.
I have lost track of how many years I have been entering students for GCSE & A-Level music and frankly I don’t want to think about it too much. But it doesn’t get easier, well maybe a little bit, but then they throw a new specification at you. It is tough for all of us and I am lucky to have some really amazing students who have worked hard. I know you want me to say it gets easier, but I mean, I don’t want to sound too dishonest. I guess what is easier is that you have past work to look back on and you can also think back to last year and remember that you did actually survive and come out the other side alive!
But we have to keep going don’t we! We owe it to our students and ourselves to try and push through this season and come out the other side.
But it is hard at times and I have found the last few weeks really difficult. I am tired, grouchy, overwhelmed and frankly completely DONE with coursework.
But it isn’t all bad and I guess we sometimes need to stop and look at the right things.
Some of the work produced by the students is simply amazing and totally inspiring. I have some stunning GCSE & A-Level compositions, you know the ones that you actually enjoy listening to. I have watched students perform pieces that I know they have worked so hard on. It isn’t always the hardest piece, but to that student it is the product of hard work, and I find that inspiring. I have watched recitals that I have gone badly and then improved within the space of a week. I have seen students actually enjoy Bach once it has all clicked into place.
Ultimately what I have seen is an education worth fighting for – Music Education. This sector has taken some knocks, but we get to do the most amazing job. watching students strive to get performances done and compositions complete is just brilliant. I love how much they care and I love how much it matters. I know we will all have students who don’t take to it like others, but even they will still persevere, even if it is last minute.
And I guess at this time of year that is what it is all about. We are not just fighting for the nice experiences, the large orchestras and the latest technology. We are fighting to get students grades in a subject that we love and hold dear to us. It is, or at least should be, the main focus of the year.
But it is a balancing act.
I truly believe, and I think I can prove, that a healthy & rich Extra Curricular programme needs to go hand in hand with the classroom provision. If students aren’t engaged in their playing outside of lessons then they certainly won’t be in lessons. But similarly, without a well thought through classroom provision, students won’t have something concrete to work towards. The goal of a qualification in music makes them see the benefit of attending rehearsals and lessons outside of school.
And so my comment that we need to KEEP GOING means that even after these exams are done and the coursework season is done, we need to keep going through the summer. We need our lessons to be rich, exciting and providing opportunities to make progress. We need to think ahead to next year and get our Year 10 & 12 engaged and ready. We need to continue to provide a healthy programme outside the classroom where students remain inspired and remain learning. We need concerts that are exciting, that are well attended and that raise money for our departments. We need to KEEP GOING.
But it is tiring and it is hard and I totally am with everyone out there who has had coursework to get in – and I am not quite there yet! I need more sleep than ever and need daily moments of inspiration just to keep pushing forward.
But this morning I stood in my Big band rehearsal at 8.00 am and I was just taken back by the beauty and joy of music making and music education. I had “a moment” and it has reminded me of why I love what I do. It was a moment where I realised that the students in front of me were loving playing and performing together. The sound was exciting, albeit it far from ready! But it was electric and it was a timely reminder that I need to KEEP GOING because it is totally worth it!