I have been a Head of Department & Director of Music for nearly 17 years now and I really do Enjoy Being a HOD. Running a music department is not only a huge privilege but also a complete joy. Every day is different and yet every year I feel I am getting a little bit better. Enjoying the role is important and often it is better to focus on that than the survival bit. And if it is your first year as a HOD then hopefully this blog might be of use to you! You can Enjoy your first year!
Can I again recommend a wonderful book by my good friends Patrick, Jane & David – Being a Head of Music.
Ups & Downs
Running a Music Department has its ups & downs. There is always something to do, someone to meet and a new challenge waiting to appear from no-where. It really is like no other role, because you are not only running the curriculum but also the Extra-Curricular programme. No school is the same, but I would imagine that no matter what the setting, the Head of Music is often run off their feet.
Enjoying being a HOD will therefore come down to getting a few things right. Firstly, you have to remember that you can’t do it all. That is rich coming from me as I often don’t know when to stop. But sometimes as a Head of Music you do need to stop and not try and squeeze 25 hours into 24.
You also need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and therefore be kind to yourself. Every HOD is different, with different skills & abilities. You will bring something unique to the role and you need to be comfortable with that. You will therefore also make mistakes, trip up and find things hard.
Throughout my career I have mad numerous mistakes and probably done lots wrong. I am confident I have annoyed colleagues, upset students and frustrated parents. Lessons have gone wrong, new projects haven’t worked and concerts have been poorly attended. I have tried new things that haven’t worked and attempted to climb mountains that are too high. Failure has been part of every year of my career. The ups are great, the downs are hard. But part of the enjoyment of being a HOD is where you get back up again and keep going.
Let me try and convince you that when you are a Head of Music you will have a lot on your calendar. Every day will be packed full and you will feel like you want to use that word. Yeah, that word – BUSY. This is a word that I banned years ago and I now actively dislike the word.
If you are going to Enjoy being a HOD then you are going to have to ban the word busy. You need to see each day as an opportunity and not let yourself get overwhelmed. Make sure you don’t pack too much in and give yourself space to breath. If every day is “Busy” then you will find the whole experience less than fun. You will see days as being too busy, too hard and not fun in the slightest.
So join me on my crusade to ban this word. And if you want to be convinced then try asking someone how their weekend was. Did they say busy? Did that just seem negative and dull? Then you see what I mean. How was your weekend – it was great thanks!
Ten Top Tips
I am sure that you want come tips for being a HOD? Well here they are anyway, my Ten Top Tips that will help you to Enjoy being a Head of Music
- Plan your year well in advance – including concerts, rehearsals, events & trips.
- Make sure that you have strong links with your community including local businesses.
- Have a plan to raise money for your department. You will need it if you want to develop.
- Do all you can to “get on” with your SLT and senior leaders. Say yes, don’t moan and support them.
- Make sure that you get senior students on board and working with you – Student Leader Style.
- Work out what you want your department to be known for – it is yours and you can put your stamp on it.
- Make links with local HODs that you can go to for support.
- Use Social Media well and to your advantage.
- Make rehearsals fun and enjoyable – play, sing, join in and have fun.
- Make sure your department is valued by the school, students, parents & community.
Okay, admittedly some of the things above as quite big statements, take number 10 for example. But I guessing enjoying being a HOD is all about taking pride in your department. You need to think about what you want it to be like in 5 years time. You are setting the agenda for concerts, rehearsals and the shape of the curriculum. It is so much fun doing all of that.
Now this is a difficult one. Does this exist?
I don’t think I know the answer, and I am maybe not the right person to ask.
The thing is I truly do love my job. But I also love the “My Own Life” bit. And yet in some ways what I do in my job comes down to a passion inside that wants to work in Music Education.
So let me suggest we go for a good Work/Life Balance by ensuring that we seek the joy in all we do. I get balance because I do know when to stop. But I also get balance because I believe that life is for living and I am living my best life when I am enjoying work and enjoying home life. I don’t think there is an answer or a set way of doing things.
So my advice is to make sure you seek out balance. Don’t let yourself be an absolute slave to your work. But similarly, don’t be afraid to work hard, maybe just for a season. When I took on music in Windsor I worked really really hard. Long hours, long days and lots of really difficult stuff. But I enjoyed it, I was building something and I am still building today. So I guess what I am saying is that when you are a HOD for the first time it might be tough. But most things that are hard are worth it aren’t they? I think hard work pays off and I am now really enjoying the benefits. But I enjoyed the journey to.
My Biggest Mistakes
I think I have two big mistakes that I have made…well okay maybe more, but two that come to mind
- I made the mistake at times of trying to be someone else or be like another department. I forgot what kind of teacher I am and the school I am in. I thought I might be like “that other” music teacher. But I have realised that I am me with my talents, skills, issues and flaws. I am now just striving to be the best version of me.
- My other big mistake was forgetting that you have to look at the whole picture. Curriculum Music & Extra-Curricular must go hand in hand. At times I forgot this and then I found students weren’t progressing as well as they should. This has not been the case for a good few years, but early on I needed to focus more on the whole picture.
My Favourite Moments
I have so many, too many to even really think about. I have enjoyed so many things in my time as a HOD and now Director of Music. I think my favourite moments are those moments before a concert or show, when it is just me and the students. There is an energy I can’t describe and so much passion in the room.
But I also have memories of seeing students “get it” for the first time. Or memories of first performances where fear is pushed aside and they just go for it. What I love about my job is that I get to see students go from nervous wrecks to shining stars. That is such a joy to watch.
Enjoy Being a HOD
So Enjoy Being a HOD, please! It is the best job in the world and one I have loved doing for so many years. You won’t get it all right, you will be tired at times and you will make mistakes. But you will also make a huge impact on your school and the students you work with. Don’t try to be like anyone else, be you and do you. Run the department like you mean it! Don’t get busy and don’t always try to get everything perfect.
And for goodness sake take the time to stop and just think about the musical world around you and the young people you are influencing. It is the greatest pleasure to teach young people and I think enjoying being a HOD is remember what a privilege it is.
And if you ever find it hard, get in touch! I would love to support you. I don’t have all the answers, but I am still smiling and still passionate about Music Education. Have a great year – ENJOY!
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