Friday, 2 December 2011

Patchy Music Teaching

Apparently the concern is that music teaching is very patchy - hence the National Music Plan.  However, as far as I am concerned they have missed the point - I think music teaching is patchy because the training is poor.  There is no basic teacher training for independent peris and although there are plenty of courses run by various music boards, they are extremely expensive.  As for the PGCE for music - well personally I thought it was a joke. 

I learned more from observing other teachers than I did from the PGCE and mostly it was how not to do things!  One observation experience while I was on the PGCE was an absolute travesty of teaching.  15 post graduate students were sitting observing 2, yes 2, post 16 students.  These 2 guys were studying popular music.  The teacher asked them a question to which it became clear very quickly that they did not know the answer - of course they knew that all 15 post grads were sitting there with the answer in their heads.  Instead of stepping in very quickly and saving their embarrassment, the teacher left the question hanging.  One of the students even told the teacher she was embarrassing them which she poo-pooed.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow us all.
Firstly there should never havebeen 15 post grads observing 2 college students and the teacher should have realised very quickly that they didn't know the answer and help them out.  I understand that one of those lads actually left the course a couple of weeks later.

I was also told after about 3 weeks at a school on teaching experience that after half-term I was to teach Yr 9s advertisements - I was given no resources, no ideas on how to approach it, in fact I was left completely on my own.  As far as I can make out most of the time schools use PGCE students as dogsbodies with very little support or assistance.  I was left at the last minute to cover a lesson because a music teacher was ill - I had no warning, I had nothing with me, no lesson plan was given to me to work from and so I had to ad lib the entire lesson - with Year 9s!!  Luckily I was a mature student with probably more confidence than someone of 21 or 22 which is what the normal age would have been.  I think part of the problem with the schools as far as music is concerned is that music is an 'only' subject:  "It's only music" ergo it isn't important.

All the resources I used when I was teaching secondary I created myself or got from the internet- I did not get anything from the PGCE or from my teaching experience posts.

Basically if the government don't want 'patchy' music teaching they need to look at how they train their teachers and make some funding available for peris to take some courses.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Who says you are a teacher?

It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age of health and safety, political correctness etc. etc. that there is absolutely no check on instrumental/vocal teachers who teach at home - even those who teach in schools but are not employed by a music service - at school of course it comes down to the Head of Music to check the quality of teaching but how often does that happen?  There should be some professional body that peripatetic teachers need to belong to (obviously there are unions etc but who checks whether they are a member?). Don't you think that peris should have some kind of basic teacher training?  A while ago they were talking about CRB checks for people who give children a lift to school - what about peripatetics??  How do parents know the people they are leaving their children with are 1) Safe and 2) Can actually teach?  There are plenty of people out there who are probably excellent on their instruments, but that doesn't mean they can teach.  I'm sure there are also plenty of 'teachers' out there who aren't very good at either - there is nothing to say unless parents ask to see some kind of instrumental/vocal qualification. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Hands up if your experience of playing instruments in the classroom was limited to keyboards.  Don't get me wrong - keyboards have their place, but there are other instruments that can be used in the classroom.  At a school where I did some of my training each music lesson started with 20 minutes 'learning' keyboards in pairs! - in this particular lesson I found myself preventing two young men from spending their 20 minutes inventing ways to wreck the keyboard.  It wasn't that they didn't have an interest in music (one of them proceeded to sing me the entire 'American Pie' unaccompanied!), just absolutely no interest in learning to play the keyboard.

You don't have to be able to 'play' the violin to get a sound out of it - you don't have to be a drummer to make a sound on a kit.  So much fun can be had using other instruments.  How many of you who were instrumentalists at school were asked to bring your instruments in to use in group music making activities in the classroom?  When teaching modern music my challenge to the children was to use conventional instruments in the most unconventional way they could imagine (a la John Cage).  Some music teachers may not consider this to be 'music' but let us remember that the definition of music is:  sounds organised within a space of time - not something 'nice' to listen to.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Are we teaching or telling?

Why don't instrumental teachers teach their pupils what a clef is for (and their proper names eg G Clef & F Clef) - they are not just pretty symbols; and what the numbers in time signature represent?  How can a child possibly work out a rhythm if they don't understand the time signature - my most hated phrase: "a crotchet is one beat" - only if the time signature is in crotchets!!!!  If you teach them that from the beginning then you have to 'unteach' it later on - how confusing is that?  I like the american system of half note, quarter note etc - this makes more sense of the numbers in the time signature.