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Classroom Music Teaching

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
I've actually got a PGCE in music and have taught in many classrooms over the years to 25+ pupils at a time.

I'm currenty in the processs of moving back to more casual work and home tuition because I've found classroom music teaching such a pitiful waste of time; out of 25 or so kids, only one or two have any real interest or ability, and for the others, it was a case of writing the notes on the keyboard with a marker pen and asking them to spot an ostinato in a recording.

Maybe my approaches were uninteresting, but I never got much satisfaction from teaching whole classes in secondary school - it felt like treading water most of the time

Does anybody think it's possible to teach whole classes music and really get meaningful results?

Have you had experiences of whole-class music that were critical in your career, or do you think that music is best taught to very small groups, or even better still, as individual instrumental lessons? I'm of the opinion that certain lessons, like Maths and English can be taught to groups of kids, but music is best taught in much smaller settings.
 

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
I just wanna say, I feel for you. I've been in similar (non-musical) situations - larger groups that have no choice but to take prescribed classes - very easy to pick out which students truly want to be there to learn and the rest, which seem to be there just to get it over with.
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
I just wanna say, I feel for you. I've been in similar (non-musical) situations - larger groups that have no choice but to take prescribed classes - very easy to pick out which students truly want to be there to learn and the rest, which seem to be there just to get it over with.
The bigger joke is that if the pupils are not seen to be making progress, then blame is laid at the door of the teacher. Well, you know how hard it is to get progress from somebody who never practices; then multiply that by 25.

So in the end, teachers give the kids fairly meaningless National Curriculum levels like 4b - and then they "move up" to 4a by the end of the year - but still need the notes written on the keyboard in marker pen!

Maybe it was better than the days whe the teacher just played the kids a record a classical music and the kids wrote an essay on the lives of the great composers- those days are gone. But what we have instead - "achievement for all" without any practice being put in, strikes me as rather fraudulent.

Some people here may have positive experiences of classroom music, as either teacher or pupil and I'd be interested to hear about these.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Maybe it was better than the days whe the teacher just played the kids a record a classical music and the kids wrote an essay on the lives of the great composers- those days are gone. But what we have instead - "achievement for all" without any practice being put in, strikes me as rather fraudulent.
Call me an old fuddy-duddy (go on, you know you want to) but it seems that's the way all education is going. Maybe music just got there first. It makes the politicians look good if everyone has qualifications, so everyone gets them, regardless of whether they can do anything. CS departments in Universities (I'm only singling that out because I used to work in one) now have to spend a significant part of the first year teaching remedial maths to their intake. So, guess what? less time to teach CS. Etc, etc, etc...
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
Call me an old fuddy-duddy (go on, you know you want to) but it seems that's the way all education is going. Maybe music just got there first. It makes the politicians look good if everyone has qualifications, so everyone gets them, regardless of whether they can do anything. CS departments in Universities (I'm only singling that out because I used to work in one) now have to spend a significant part of the first year teaching remedial maths to their intake. So, guess what? less time to teach CS. Etc, etc, etc...
To go along the "conspiracy theory" lines, "they" know that with media bombardment and 24hr television, the majority of people will only reach a certain level of mental functioning. This suits the government, because a fully thinking population would ask too many awkward questions (eg. unnecessary wars, financial corruption, etc). They'd rather they had a population of work-obsessed, media/celebrity-focussed shoppers and debt-slaves.

On the other hand "they" have to prove that their educational policies are working, so they conspire in a multitude of methods of making it look like schools are getting better year-on-year, whereas those with first hand experience (like me) see exactly the opposite.

The basic skills of my parents' generation (schooled in the 1940s-50s) put those of today's kids to shame.

That's probably why I only derive any real satisfaction from private teaching - I'm not part of a cover-up for nationally declining standards, and when my pupils get better, they really do - I'm not faking it for the satisfaction of the school/ the LEA/ the government etc.

I wouldn't recommend people teach Music in UK secondary schools, even though a PGCE is useful to have.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,999
Let me start by saying that I am totally unfamiliar with music instruction classes in the UK. However, I can share a bit of my experience in the U.S. I taught school band classes over a 32 year career. I started teaching high school but after 13 years of doing marching band, pep band, summer parades, I gave that up to teach beginning band in grades 6 and 7.

In the U.S. we generally have band, chorus, orchestra and general music in the grades 6 - 9. Of these general music is the toughest assignment. Most of the students with an interest in music are in one or more of the "performance classes". The rest of the students with little or no interest or aptitude in music are herded into general music to earn their required arts credits.

The essential difference between the performance groups and the general music classes, besides the interest and attitude of the students is that the general music students are generally passive recipients of the subject matter being taught. On the other hand in the performance groups, the students learn by actively participating in making music.

This does not mean that conducting a band, orchestra, or chorus class is a walk in the park. It is not. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication, knowledge of all the instruments, being familiar with all of the literature available, and the ability to relate to and motivate students. That said, just the fact that all of the students come to class each day and actively participate in the music learning process makes it much easier to teach than the passive learning general music class.
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,268
I never had any good musical experiences when i was at secondary school, i can't even remember ever trying any instrument in my school years (maybe the recorder) !!

Regarding todays fake certificates, i call them fake because i have one ! Let me explain, iv'e been a cab driver for over 20 yrs and i know my job inside/out but 2 years ago some bright spark in the goverment decided that taxi drivers needed an NVQ in customer care/health safety. They wanted me and many other experienced drivers to suck eggs !! What is their to teach someone who has been doing the same job for over 20/30 years ?

Anyhow the goverment funded the union to re-train us in our job, just so we could have a peice of paper that says 'I've been trained in customer care' whoopee
The course ran over 6 weeks 2 hours a session, so in 12 hours i knew everything i needed to know in customer care !! Load of bull, as the teachers who ran the course were taxi drivers who were doing the job as a taxi driver only 2 months previous and guess what...... they are all union members !!!

I completed the course because it was FREE otherwise i wouldn't have bothered (i think i know my job) and as said earlier the certificate we all recieved are fake, as we were given the answers at the end of each session by our cabbie friends. Not that you needed the answers as the questions were simple, it just saved the tutors time and got the next batch of cabbies in to train.

I also know of a tutor in motorcycle mechanics who is in dispute with the college as she refused to sign NVQ certificates for pupils who did not put the recommended hours in for tuition, the college just wanted the pass rate high.
 
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old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Summing up, it seems that the general opinion is that inspirational teachers are in short supply.
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
Summing up, it seems that the general opinion is that inspirational teachers are in short supply.
I would say it's also that it's almost impossible to get meaningful results from a classroom full of kids where only a few have any interest or aptitude in music. That's the situation in the UK. We don't have band lessons as part of timetable, they are all extra-curricular for the minority who have instrument lessons. So most of the time you are teaching a majority who almost no musical skills. It could be the teacher's job to impart these skills. but that is very hard in such a large setting.

That's I'm of the opinion that whole-class music teaching is a bit of a waste of time.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
I also know of a tutor in motorcycle mechanics who is in dispute with the college as she refused to sign NVQ certificates for pupils who did not put the recommended hours in for tuition, the college just wanted the pass rate high.
Yep. That's happening in universities, too (the old as well as the new ones). More and more pressure not to fail anyone, no matter how little effort they put in or how badly they perform. So even the ones that do work end up with a degree that means nothing. Blechhh...
 
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MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
Subscriber
Messages
3,551
I would say it's also that it's almost impossible to get meaningful results from a classroom full of kids where only a few have any interest or aptitude in music. That's the situation in the UK. We don't have band lessons as part of timetable, they are all extra-curricular for the minority who have instrument lessons. So most of the time you are teaching a majority who almost no musical skills. It could be the teacher's job to impart these skills. but that is very hard in such a large setting.

That's I'm of the opinion that whole-class music teaching is a bit of a waste of time.
I am not a music teacher.. far from it... I taught graphics and electronics for a while.
My sister is a head of music in and 11-16 secondary school.

I would have to question your observation that the majority have no musical skills - they almost all have an ipod or MP3 player of some sort, and have an interest in music of some sort, they can almost all tap out a rhythm on the desk, or their mate's head with a ruler or pencil or their hands, especially when you don't want them to... so it could be possible to adapt your subject matter to their interests.
Unfortunately, the National Curriculum does not provide for such an approach - as there is almost certainly a requirement that they do (say) Classical, Mediaeval, African...etc and not just modern pop and rock.

I know when my daugter did GCSE music, she had to wade through pages of scores of different pieces, identifying when a particular instrument comes in or goes out etc. I wouldn't want to do that and I am interested in the subject.

My son is naturally musical - he can hold a tune, a rhythm and play keyboard from feel, not from music. He opened the school carol concert in year 7 singing a solo from the back of the priory, but he was also sent out of music on many occasions - because either the subject or staff could not find his niche. He found classroom music dull and boring, it gave him plenty of opportunities to misbehave (Music was not the only subject in which his behaviour was less than perfect, but there was never such a problem in the Sciences or Maths)

As for personal experiences - we had a great teacher in primary school, she taught us all to play the recorder. In secondary school, music lessons were dull and dry, and I got thrown out of the choir for not being able to sing (apparently!).
I don't know what my sister does in her lessons, but she has the pupils' respect and enthusiasm and a variety of very well-supported bands across the school.
 

maestrogrant

New Member
Messages
1
As a music teacher in a secondary school here in the UK I cannot tell you of the relief that washed over me last week when we broke up for the summer holidays. This year has been the hardest yet and I have no idea how I am going to get through the next term come Sept, let alone another year.

I have only been teaching 3 years in a classroom situation and already I have lost the will to live. Music is my passion, my whole life. It has been a loyal friend and comfort through some of the hardest times in my life. I decided to gift my skill and knowledge back to children in the hope it would give them just a fraction of what it has given to me. Perhaps this was a romantic notion, but never the less I felt it the most positive way to use my music.

I have taught BTEC Music for the first 2 years which actually allows the kids to leave school with the equivalent of 4 GCSE in Muisc and believe it or not, they don't even have to be able to read music or play an instrument if they don't want to. Due to this, and the general decline in musicians and instrumental ability out dept decided to switch back to GSCE music.

I have been given a class of 27 students of which only 7 can actually play an instrument at grade 1 or 2, the remainder cannot play anything and have no interest or intention of learning to. Some didn't even choose to study music but there was not room in the classes that they chose to study. With no interest in making music, how on earth do I get them through a GCSE course? If they fail, it will be my fault, as it has already been stated, the fault of failure lies with the teacher.

Those in the lower school have a real bad attitude which I know comes from home, but there is very little we can do to control that. I have tried adjusting lessons to incorporate the music of the pupils choice, but even then they are not the least bit interested in learning about the music they listen to, or eben to try to explain what it is about the music they like, or don't as the case may be.

I don't want to give up on this quest, but I am totally at a loss to know what or how to engage these kids. I have tried everyway I can to find a way to go to the USA and see how music is taught there in the hope I could use some of their skills in class here, but its like trying to get blood out of a stone getting contacts there and from what i read above from JBTSax, I'm not sure they have it right either. From what I see and hear from people who regularly go to the states the American school system seems more positive and the kids there are far more eager and willing to learn, but JB gives me the opposite impression?

I would love to see every child in secondary school having instrumental lessons, even if its just to give them a focus/outlet for their issues, byt parents cannot afford lessons and the school has no funding to cover such lessons or the instruments for them to play. My lower school classes now have up to 34 kids in a class, this is hard enough as it is since my classroom only seats 24, but now I cannot carry out practical lessons as I don't have enough computers, keyboards or any other instruments even for 1 between 2.

What is the answer? Where is education heading? How can I change it or get out?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Get them to make their own from plastic piping - or teach things like tin whistle/recorder, jews harp, mouth organ. Lots of percussion instruments can be made from ordinary household stuff as well. Lot of videos on youtube about this.
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
As a music teacher in a secondary school here in the UK I cannot tell you of the relief that washed over me last week when we broke up for the summer holidays. This year has been the hardest yet and I have no idea how I am going to get through the next term come Sept, let alone another year.

I have only been teaching 3 years in a classroom situation and already I have lost the will to live. Music is my passion, my whole life. It has been a loyal friend and comfort through some of the hardest times in my life. I decided to gift my skill and knowledge back to children in the hope it would give them just a fraction of what it has given to me. Perhaps this was a romantic notion, but never the less I felt it the most positive way to use my music.

I have taught BTEC Music for the first 2 years which actually allows the kids to leave school with the equivalent of 4 GCSE in Muisc and believe it or not, they don't even have to be able to read music or play an instrument if they don't want to. Due to this, and the general decline in musicians and instrumental ability out dept decided to switch back to GSCE music.

I have been given a class of 27 students of which only 7 can actually play an instrument at grade 1 or 2, the remainder cannot play anything and have no interest or intention of learning to. Some didn't even choose to study music but there was not room in the classes that they chose to study. With no interest in making music, how on earth do I get them through a GCSE course? If they fail, it will be my fault, as it has already been stated, the fault of failure lies with the teacher.

Those in the lower school have a real bad attitude which I know comes from home, but there is very little we can do to control that. I have tried adjusting lessons to incorporate the music of the pupils choice, but even then they are not the least bit interested in learning about the music they listen to, or eben to try to explain what it is about the music they like, or don't as the case may be.

I don't want to give up on this quest, but I am totally at a loss to know what or how to engage these kids. I have tried everyway I can to find a way to go to the USA and see how music is taught there in the hope I could use some of their skills in class here, but its like trying to get blood out of a stone getting contacts there and from what i read above from JBTSax, I'm not sure they have it right either. From what I see and hear from people who regularly go to the states the American school system seems more positive and the kids there are far more eager and willing to learn, but JB gives me the opposite impression?

I would love to see every child in secondary school having instrumental lessons, even if its just to give them a focus/outlet for their issues, byt parents cannot afford lessons and the school has no funding to cover such lessons or the instruments for them to play. My lower school classes now have up to 34 kids in a class, this is hard enough as it is since my classroom only seats 24, but now I cannot carry out practical lessons as I don't have enough computers, keyboards or any other instruments even for 1 between 2.

What is the answer? Where is education heading? How can I change it or get out?
TBH there is no answer. Many aspects of UK education are a joke and a cover up - the continual demand to prove that standards are rising, when quite the opposite is true.

For the record, I got out because it was ruining my love of music and ultimately putting immense strain on me as an individual.

I now teach Maths in special schools in small groups. It's not really my subject or my passion, but my personal sanity had to come first.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
i took a copy of Wabash Blues into a class music lesson 64 years ago and couldn't explain what appealed to me. Not much has changed. They did teach me to sing, member of all the choirs until puberty and play 'cello.

Even if just one of those kids fancies trying something, you are a success.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
i took a copy of Wabash Blues into a class music lesson 64 years ago and couldn't explain what appealed to me. Not much has changed. They did teach me to sing, member of all the choirs until puberty and play 'cello.

Even if just one of those kids fancies trying something, you are a success.
That's a good point. It's important to keep the flame alive and let those who are prepared to swim against the tide and learn to do something real know that the possibilities are out there.
 

breathless

Member
Messages
270
I've only just started learning to play the sax at the age of 42 so cannot comment on what it's like teaching the subject however I do have some experience in teaching.
Although predominantly an engineer for 25 + years, During my employment with BT I was asked to fulfill the role as a technical trainer which I accepted.

I attended many courses for training me to be a trainer and some of these were very full on physiology based (physiologist in the room taking notes and then giving the relavent information to the trainers in order to hit your self destruct button).
All said and done I learned a lot about physiology and what makes people tick (on a learning basis).

The beliefe was passed on that it upto you as a trainer to evaluate your students and adapt in order to include them and find the best way for them to obsorb the information you are passing on.

I was then thrown in at the deep end and spent the best part of 3 years rolling out training on a daily basis day after day which then led to me taking on the responsibility of running the training programe for north London myself simply because running it made it easier for me to keep on top of it all.

I ran several different classes for the same 200-300 people and in that time encountered many different attitudes and ideas but will say that I strived to make each and every session as interesting as possibly and I work say that during the training I recived training me to be a trainer gave me an invaluable set of physicological tools and the ability to turn an almost impossible situation around on itself for the better.

I know I succeeded as I recived so many hand shakes and praises format participants congratulating me on such an enjoyable session ect-.

Now that was my experience of teaching and will say it was the most I have ever enjoyed work in my life and only left due to taking voluntary redundancy.

I can appreciate that teaching children or teenagers is and must be an entirely different affair and don't believe I could do it but I don't believe the problem now days is with the teacher or the material being taught, I do believe it is sadly a sign of our time.

The government has taken away the control teachers once had and with it the respect they recived.

I can only remember the teachers from my schooling that I stalled the fear of God into me, but I had the upmost respect for them and I honestly believe I only learnt what I did because of that.

Sadly when you have teachers that are to scared to question behaviour because they know they will recive no support and will probably end up being verbally if not physically attacked without an proper recourse for the student, you can understand how this happens.

It's the fault of society today, it has already been accepted that we have turned out a generation of dumb kids that are supposed to fill in the ranks androp up society.

It's a grim thought but one that needs to be dealt with as it will escalate if unchecked.

Lee.
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
For nearly every secondary school teacher in the UK, the past few weeks has undoubtedly been one of "only two more weeks to go" etc. Although few people really love their jobs, the fact that thousands of teachers are effectively "wishing their lives away" as they struggle to control unruly kids is clearly unacceptable.

To make matters worse, teachers get the blame for this behaviour as they have not "met the pupils needs/ made their lessons engaging".

This is the sorry state of affairs right now in the UK, and it just takes a few whistleblowers like me (under my real name) to point this out.

The first step towards curing an alcoholic is to admit there is a problem.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Takes off moderator hat...

As an ex-pupil and parent of school-going kids (like many of the other members) I'd like to make a couple of observations based on my own experiences as a pupil, parent and also as an ex-trainer at work:

1 - Subjects that pupils find interesting tend to get a lot of interest, even with poor teachers.
2 - Uninteresting subjects can be brought to life by a good teacher, but an average or mediocre one will really make things worse. Teachers who're bored with the job/subject really make life difficult for themselves and even more so, for the kids.
3 - Kids vary a lot. Some must be driven, others want to be fed. Most need to be inspired. It's the teachers job to do this.
4 - Rigid/fear type discipline is unnecessary. Some teachers have an innate authority. Most/many don't and it's these ones who like to resort to corporal punishment. The teachers I've met who bleat about lack of discipline and poor behavior from the püupils (my kids) are the ones who lack this authority. And they're the ones I'd have singled out for special attention (playing up for fun) when I was at school. Frankly many teachers shouldn't be teaching. They're wrecking the kids lives - and throwing their own away.
5 - There's a world of difference between kids and adults as pupils/students. Generalising, adults are there because they want to be, kids because they have to be.
6 - Most of the guys I was at school with who decided to go into teaching were the ones who didn't know what to do and wanted a cushy job with ong holidays. Thery were also mostly the ones propping up the rest of the class.


I've watched one of mine go from top in latin (because of a motivated and inspiring teacher) to bottom - due to a change to a mediocre teacher. At the same time he'd was lie on the desk in maths, but still passing, you can guess what the teacher was like. But doing well in other subjects because of good teachers.

I've watched another of mine go from must I practice my cello to being entered for a big music competitin next year - because of a great music teacher.

I remember a real sadist of a primary school teacher who forced me from top of the class to bottom - so bad that after complaining to the headmaster, my mother moved me to another school, where I won a scholarship to grammar school. I'm still in contact with one of my teachers. He was one of the great ones, did the job cos he loved kids and enjoyed teaching. And I remember many of the others with great fondness. But others - well they were fair game and we went for it. With hindsight I realise they were in the wrong job, but we were the ones who suffered.

Perhaps the teaching profession has too many obstacles - budgets, class sizes - but a big part of it and it's problems is the teachers themselves.
 

adrianallan

Member
Messages
50
Takes off moderator hat...

As an ex-pupil and parent of school-going kids (like many of the other members) I'd like to make a couple of observations based on my own experiences as a pupil, parent and also as an ex-trainer at work:

1 - Subjects that pupils find interesting tend to get a lot of interest, even with poor teachers.
2 - Uninteresting subjects can be brought to life by a good teacher, but an average or mediocre one will really make things worse. Teachers who're bored with the job/subject really make life difficult for themselves and even more so, for the kids.
3 - Kids vary a lot. Some must be driven, others want to be fed. Most need to be inspired. It's the teachers job to do this.
4 - Rigid/fear type discipline is unnecessary. Some teachers have an innate authority. Most/many don't and it's these ones who like to resort to corporal punishment. The teachers I've met who bleat about lack of discipline and poor behavior from the püupils (my kids) are the ones who lack this authority. And they're the ones I'd have singled out for special attention (playing up for fun) when I was at school. Frankly many teachers shouldn't be teaching. They're wrecking the kids lives - and throwing their own away.
5 - There's a world of difference between kids and adults as pupils/students. Generalising, adults are there because they want to be, kids because they have to be.
6 - Most of the guys I was at school with who decided to go into teaching were the ones who didn't know what to do and wanted a cushy job with ong holidays. Thery were also mostly the ones propping up the rest of the class.


I've watched one of mine go from top in latin (because of a motivated and inspiring teacher) to bottom - due to a change to a mediocre teacher. At the same time he'd was lie on the desk in maths, but still passing, you can guess what the teacher was like. But doing well in other subjects because of good teachers.

I've watched another of mine go from must I practice my cello to being entered for a big music competitin next year - because of a great music teacher.

I remember a real sadist of a primary school teacher who forced me from top of the class to bottom - so bad that after complaining to the headmaster, my mother moved me to another school, where I won a scholarship to grammar school. I'm still in contact with one of my teachers. He was one of the great ones, did the job cos he loved kids and enjoyed teaching. And I remember many of the others with great fondness. But others - well they were fair game and we went for it. With hindsight I realise they were in the wrong job, but we were the ones who suffered.

Perhaps the teaching profession has too many obstacles - budgets, class sizes - but a big part of it and it's problems is the teachers themselves.
I appreciate what you're saying but you don't seem to recognise the malaise that has set into the average comprehensive school over the last twenty years or so. I suppose that to fully understand that, you have to have experienced it first hand.

Surely you've noticed that kids now have more rights and even perceived responsibilities than teachers, and don't they know it. Teachers have at the same time been burdended with an ethic that says "if the pupil fails, it is your fault". Put the two together, and imagine yourself in front of a class of demanding, disrespectful kids who are very hard to silence when you want to explain something worthwhile (when I was at school, apart from the really soft teachers, silence and respect were the norm, even more so for my parents' generation). That's a tough call to begin with. But now teachers have a multitude of targets and paperwork to prove that every individual child in that class is making actual progress. Now, that's well nigh impossible to achieve, especially for a subject like music where your lesson is their only hands-on experience each week.

So what happens, the teacher either drowns through stress or takes the default option of filling in a load of levels that make it appear class 9D have all had worthwhile learning experience over the year. Woe betide the teacher who is honest and says that most kids' musical skills have actually stalled. Any such admission is taken as a failure of one's own teaching style/ appropriateness of lesson/ pace of lesson/ plenary(tick whichever judgement is now used to "performance manage" each teacher by senior management).

Can you see what we're up against? Can you see now why some decide to sack it all, take a considerable pay cut and teach piano and sax (or whatever) from home in order to preserve their mental well-being.
 
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