I am sure like me you have been thinking about how we might operate our departments with the new Covid-19 rules. One Metre Music is my first look at this. We will all have to innovate and come up with new ways to work come September.
Things to remember
There are a few things that I think we need to remember as we head towards the Summer and September:
- This lockdown period will have taken its toll on everyone – teachers, students & parents.
- We all need a break from thinking about education & teaching. Whilst we can’t forget it, we can switch off when the summer comes.
- Music isn’t going anywhere. Students are not going to forget their love for music, whatever it looks like in the new normal.
- There is no rush and no competition – we have to await advice from Government & SLT at all times.
- Just because one person is doing something doesn’t mean it is right for you.
- Teacher wellbeing has taken a hit – Don’t panic, we are all in this together.m
One Metre Rehearsals
If there is one thing I have missed during this period it is rehearsing. Getting students together in school to make music is the best part of the job. As I think ahead to next year I have started to look at rehearsals. What are they for and how can they operate? Here are some of my thoughts on this area:
- Rehearsals aren’t just about music. They are about community and wellbeing. Bringing together a group of students even if they can’t actually play or sing will be better than nothing.
- Whilst we might not be able to stick to our previous rehearsal schedules and weekly programmes we can still be consistent. We can still ensure that students have the same slot to gather even if you can’t make music. Social Distancing might make the regular rehearsals tricky, but even getting students together at the same set time will help them get back into the routine.
- It is important to chat with SLT/SLG to ensure that you can have the biggest room in the school for rehearsals. I am fortaunte with my regular space, but we also have a large hall that I can use. I would book out spaces so that you can rehearse in an area where Social Distancing can take place.
- Small Ensembles are going to be key for the next few months. This is something that we can plan for. I already split my Orchestra and Big Band into small groups for Christmas. But I am going to bring this forward and make sure that every musician is in a small group so that rehearsing can be organised. Why not write out your musicians and start to create some smaller groups.
- I am going to buy lots of tape and start marking out the floor in my rehearsal room. Social Distancing has to be taken seriously and possibly even more so in school. I want to make it clear where students can sit, stand and play when we are rehearsing. Space is quite a good thing when performing and rehearsing.
- We will also need to be flexible and prepared to give up more time. I know that is never popular, but we have to keep things going. Smaller rehearsals more often might become the norm for a while. Prepare for this by relaxing plenty over the summer.
One Metre Lessons
I am still not really sure what lessons are going to look like in September. If I am required to have a one metre distance in my classroom then the computers will be out! Learning is going to look very different, but I think there are some approaches we can take.
- Listening lessons where students are not required to use computers & instruments will be essential. I use the term Deliberate Listening where we really help guide students through a piece of music.
- It might be good to have lessons that students prepare for. They could for example be given tasks to complete at home that can then be shared with the class. It might be that they perform, compose or create something at home that they then send to you. I think this will be a good way to keep them practical without the need to do this in school.
- Online Learning platforms such as Focus on Sound & Soundtrap will become very valuable to school music departments. They are cloud based and therefore if you are put in a computer room due to year Group bubbles, students can still access their work. Budgets might be tight, but you can sell the benefits of this software to SLT as a way of keeping learning moving forward in Music.
- Singing is a grey area, but it might be something we have to avoid unless we can book a larger room for our music lessons. I think it is worth looking at this well in advance to see if you can book your main hall more often.
- Personally I am going to avoid resorting to worksheets. I want my lessons to be clearly musical and engaging. I am thinking of utilising the various online video resources that help to bring music to life. BBC Ten Pieces are good for this as well as so many other videos on YouTube etc. Whilst I don’t want to just “stick a video on” I do want students to keep hearing and seeing music.
- Composition does not require computers if we think smart. I am considering how I might go back to “Pen & Paper Composition” and how I might then bring any ideas to life. Creating Melodies and short motifs will be entirely possible and as the teacher you could then input these ideas into a computer. From here you could then look at how ideas can be improved, manipulated and developed.
It is not going to be normal or easy in September. I have really started to embrace that. I am not happy about it, none of us are. But what I am sure of is that we can’t let music die in our schools. As music teachers we will need to keep out students going at all costs. Moaning, worrying or stressing will not change it. It will only cause us as staff to resent our jobs and not give our best. Giving our best to our students will start with us. We will need to walk back in to our schools with a plan and a purpose.
I love teaching music and I am convinced that I can use my passion for the subject to keep it alive in my school. It will take some thinking and a great deal of new ideas. I won’t be able to rely on all the lessons I have taught over the years. I will need to re-think extra curricular music and how I keep students enjoying the year,
But a chance to rethink is no bad thing. We all have things we are good at or things that work well. But there are sometimes areas of our teaching that could do with a little refresh. Hitting the refresh button in September is therefore an exciting chance to try some new things. We can get to know our students in smaller ensembles and we can find the time to work more closely with the curriculum. Not having concerts is dreadful, but it will give us more time to focus on the students. Preparation is everything and passion will help us hit the ground running.
So if I leave you with one thought it is this – we are all in this together and we will get through the coming months. Get thinking and remind yourself why you became a music teacher. Young people need music in their lives now more than ever. Let’s give them our best, give them our all. Let’s march back into our departments in September with a single focus: to make music in our school even bigger and better than ever. One Metre Music might be the new normal for a while, but it also won’t be here forever.
I wish all colleagues the very best for the weeks and months ahead. For goodness sake rest over the summer and don’t try and do it alone!
Please signup for email updates so that you never miss a useful idea or an interesting read!