Break on Through (to the other side)

By David Ashworth, freelance Music Consultant.

An interesting letter in last month’s (excellent!) edition of Music Teacher magazine has got me thinking.

It tells the story of a music teacher who provides a convincing argument and set of reasons at to why there is often an inevitable delay in responding to phone calls from parents. It is all to do with the logistics of a demanding workload and the challenge of finding some time and space to respond. I sympathise entirely – a music teacher has much to fit into the day including lesson preparation, teaching, SLT meetings, one to one support during breaks, running ensembles etc. This is all part of a typical working day and there is not a lot a teacher can do about this. But when the teacher goes into the fine detail regarding how she spends her time, I think there are now 21st century solutions which can go some way towards easing the pressure…

“…got in at 7.30am, done the relevant photocopying for the day”

Why do we do so much photocopying? I’ve been involved with a lot of preparing of lesson resources over recent years and almost none of it requires the handing out of one off photocopied sheets.  Essential handouts can be laminated and reused. Much info can be stored on the VLE and projected/accessed from there.

“..made sure I had all the relevant CDs for each lesson”

Why not embed the extracts you need in digitally prepared resources?

“gone over to the main building for pigeon hole checking…”

Can we start emailing this stuff? And while we are talking email, why not ask parents to email you rather than phone – that way you can respond more quickly at a time that suits you – without getting embroiled in protracted phone conversations…

Building good channels of communication with parents is such a good idea. It is essential to have them on our side! Emailing, use of twitter, electronic newsletters can all be used to nurture this critically important army of support.

“At lunchtime….I acted as peacekeeper  for the war on practice room bookings…” an electronic booking system?

“burned some exam CDs for students”  let start putting this stuff on VLE or dedicated sites like NUMU, so they can access it from wherever…

“at the end of the rehearsal I was at the photocopier…as the students were keen to take the lyrics home”  Can’t they access these for themselves from the internet?

As I say, it’s still going to be a busy, full-on working day, but ideas such as these can take some of the pressure off.  A few years ago, these suggestions were seen as 'pie in the sky', but not anymore. These strategies, and many others like them, are now widespread. Access to the technology can still be patchy, but in schools where the provision has been inadequate, I’ve seen music teachers dig their heels in and fight effectively for the changes that are needed - to enable them to deal effectively with a lot of the routine stuff, by harnessing the appropriate technology.