General CPD

What I learnt in 2021

I am in a reflective place and I want to try and share what I learnt in 2021. Obviously I won’t be able to summarise everything, but I think there are some key things that I can take away from the year.

Time Flies

It is quite clear to me as I near my final year of being in my 30s, that time does indeed fly! 2021 has been far from normal, and yet there has been a bit more space here and there. And yet despite being forced to stay at home for 10 days, and going away less than normal, time has flown by. One minute it is January 2021 and we are all awaiting the news of what will happen. Then its CAGs, concerts outside and a slightly odd summer break. Suddenly September arrives and I had to remember how to teach, and now is it about to be the end of the year. How on earth does it work? Is it an age thing, a covid thing, or was the year as quick as it normally is?

Whatever the case I am aware that every day counts and I need to enjoy all of the next 12 months as I move in to 2022. I need to make sure that I do what I can to make the 52 weeks of 2022 as productive, fun and fulfilling as possible. I can’t say that I have much of a plan for the year, but I am certainly going to make sure I enjoy it. Time flies, so we need to make sure that we treasure it!

Teaching is still for me

Teaching through a pandemic isn’t the easiest thing in the world now is it. The worst part for me was the wiping down of chairs and keyboards in classrooms. In fact the worst part was in fact not being able to run the music department in the way I had been accustomed to over the years. Scrap that, the whole pandemic was rubbish really.

But yet in-amongst all the tough bits there were some lovely moments. Online lessons, when they went well, were quite fun. Zoom calls, virtual events and bubbled rehearsals did actually make sure some lovely moments. Organising concerts outside for multiple audiences was at the time hard, but in the end really quite rewarding.

What I am basically saying is that I have learnt in 2021 that teaching is still for me, I love it. Not every part of it – meetings, reports, data etc. But on the whole I love being a teacher, and despite the challenges, 2021 has been quite a good year for teaching. We have had a chance to flex our muscles with CAGs, check we can keep a class entertained when they are all at home and keep things going outside the classroom in bubbled ensembles. Loads went wrong, but that gave me a chance to learn. I love being in a school and working with colleagues and students – and that kept me going through this rather strange year.

Teachers Care

2021 was a year where I saw my network of colleagues grow and grow. Online meetings, virtual conferences and weekly zoom calls – all great ways to meet people. I have attended more CPD sessions than ever, read more books than ever and generally felt more plugged into the world of music education. It has been great to meet people online for chats, sharing ideas and plotting future plans. I have been able to attend meetings that I would normally not make and tune in to conference sessions online.

I have really seen that teachers care and it is evident on Twitter most days. Teachers want to share, support and encourage. They are there for the students, but also for colleagues they have never met. Teachers care about students and have gone above and beyond – I am proud to work in this wonderful profession.

If you don’t feel all that plugged in to all things Music Education then why not check out:

  • Music Teachers Association – I am Teacher Support Lead for this wonderful organisation, do consider joining!
  • Music Teacher Magazine – Loads to read every month, why not subscribe in 2022.
  • Teaching Notes Podcast – A great way to listen in to all that is going on in Music Education, subscribe now!
  • Start using Twitter to meet new people and learn from others in the profession, start by following me.
  • Teacher Tapp is a great app and provides great insight and things to read.

Students Care

Young people are great and frankly they have dealt with 2021 pretty well I think. I have seen my students rally to make things happen, perform in all manner of circumstances and support me no end with all my ventures. Whilst it can be the case that students don’t love school, I have seen the opposite in so many of my classes. It strikes me that when we get things right, they want to be at school. By right I mean balanced, with opportunities both in and out of the classroom. I have loved seeing students take on new challenges and work really hard even though they aren’t sitting formal exams.

When I think about all that has happened in 2021 I am amazed at what has been achieved in the schools I work for. The end of term in December was tough, and yet I got to be part of concerts outside, a whole school musical and numerous performances in the community. If we can perform this much outside in the winter then we can definitely keep that going into the spring.

I thoroughly recommend keeping an eye out for those students who really love school and what you do in the classroom. It will fuel you to keep going when life gets tough and the workload is heavy. When you realise how much they love being in your lessons or rehearsals then you will be motivated to keep going.

Change is possible

We didn’t really have a choice in January 2021 and we had to adapt and change what we did. Change is possible, and this is a big takeaway for me. I have been teaching for a good number of years now and I have fallen into the trap of sticking to what I know. And yet in 2021 I have been challenged to look at what I teach and how I teach – and change is possible. It isn’t always easy and I don’t often like change, but it is possible. And I would say that lots of the changes have been positive and will be here to stay in my working week.

Bridging the gap between home and class with online music software has been a big bonus for me this year. Soundtrap continues to be a great way to keep students learning even if they are stuck at home! Meeting colleagues on zoom to share, create and plan has also been a change I have enjoyed. Smaller events to work around covid have actually been great and I now plan to do these more. Working in bubbles has shown me that I can focus on smaller groups and support students on more of an individual basis.

Change is something we often try and avoid, but I think when forced upon us, change can be a good thing.

What I learnt in 2021

I guess one of the key things I have learnt in 2021 is that I still have lots to learn. I have made some horrible mistakes, let things get to me and continued to doubt what I do. Despite loving my job I have often let it get on top of me. Trying to do everything, fit everything in and be some kind of superhero just doesn’t work. I have lots to learn not only about how to teach better, but also how to support a wider range of students. The needs of students are changing all the time, and I am aware that I need to be there to support them.

What I have learnt above all else is that failure is fine, one or two negative comments are normal, and pleasing everyone is impossible. I have learnt that a good walk will clear your head and sometimes it works best not to send an email. Stopping is fine and perfection isn’t always possible. In the rough round the edges moments of 2021 I have learnt that I am doing an okay job and just need to keep on going.

My strengths are not necessarily going to solve every problem, and I am most in control of my own thoughts and actions. Getting annoyed doesn’t work and it is always good to have perspective. I am far from perfect, closer to normal and way off excellent! I need to stopping wishing I had other talents, different abilities or other roles. I need to focus on me, my family and the job I have been given to do.

And so I am fuelled by 2021 to keep going, keep learning and keep enjoying the life that I am blessed to have.

So that’s another year done, here’s to 2022!

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