Let’s face it. We’ve all gotten some pretty terrible advice for how to teach elementary music. On top of that, the majority of this advice is entirely unsolicited.
I asked a group of elementary music teachers on Facebook to share some of the worst advice they’ve ever received, and let’s just say that some of these are pretty… special, to say the least.
1. "The students are only misbehaving because they don't like what you're teaching."
This isn’t necessarily the case. This might be my time in special education showing, but it's often important to think about the function of the behavior we are seeing in our classroom. On top of this, I think we as educators really need to think about what types of emotional baggage our students are bringing with them.
Sometimes a student is acting out because they don’t get attention at home. Sometimes it comes down to a student trying to emotionally cope with an upcoming change. Sure, sometimes a kid is just being disruptive. But I would argue that more often than not, our students act out for a deeper reason.
2. “The ultimate goal of music education is for children to read music.”
I just have to say that I strongly disagree with this. The goal of music education (at least in my classroom) is to create lifelong lovers and participants of music. Reading music might help in this, but it’s not the goal.
Don’t get me wrong, reading music is important. It’s just not everything. Plenty of popular professional musicians and artists don’t know how to read music. Being able to read music is definitely something we should be teaching our students, but I believe that it should be as a tool to experience music.
3. "You're wasting your talent teaching elementary school."
Yeah. That’s not how this works. You wouldn’t call a pediatrician any less of a doctor because they work with younger kiddos. They’ve just decided to specialize in that field. The same is the case when it comes to elementary music teachers. We refine our craft of teaching music in the same ways that secondary educators do.
I’m not really sure where this idea came from, but teaching music at the elementary level is so important. We are often some of the first interactions a student has with music, and we have the incredible opportunity (responsibility) to allow our students to experience music in a way that creates lifelong appreciation of music.
4. “Don’t smile until Christmas.”
No. Just no.
Somewhere along the line, this phrase became a common piece of advice for new teachers. I really hope that we can agree that it’s pretty terrible advice.
You can have control of your classroom without making your students afraid of you. I would argue that students that know you genuinely care tend to be easier to manage because they want to do right by you.
Smile at your kids. Smile on the first day, the last day, and every day in between.
5. “Remember: You’re just here to give the teachers their planning period.”
This is one sentence that gets under my skin. We are not babysitters. We are not a body in a room that fulfills a contractual obligation for the homeroom teachers. We are professionals with specialized knowledge in our content area.
I’ll say it again for those in the back: we are experts in our content area. Not only that, but we have pedagogical knowledge for teaching these concepts with our students.
Remember, you are the expert music teacher in your school. Take the advice of outsiders with a grain of salt and remember that what you are doing matters. Remember that you make a difference in the lives of your students, no matter what anyone else says.
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