I used to teach in a school. I won’t say where it was, but I was there for many, many years. I made some good friends there, and worked with some fabulous teachers. I loved the kids there – opening up all sorts of musical doors for them. It was there that I refined a lot of the stuff I do now – djembe drumming patters, chair drumming, many of the part songs I teach in choir. There were two very fair and far-sighted principals there.
As an ACMF teacher, I don’t work for the Education department. Most of the time I use that to my advantage – I’m a slightly ‘different’ teacher, and most of the kids I teach get that. Most of the teachers I work with get that too. In the schools I’m in, I understand that I expect a great deal. I will also give a great deal. I expect children to be engaged in my lessons. And if they aren’t, that’s my problem. I will rack my brains to work out how I can engage them better. I expect teachers to join in and learn with the children. I expect musical instruments to be treated with respect. And most of the time, I will expect teachers to teach a ‘revision’ lesson.
This may sound a lot, but let me explain further. Most schools ask for this. They want me to ‘upskill’ their teachers – to teach myself out of a job. I don’t just say to teachers ‘Well, do this.’ I give them a lesson plan, with all the backing tracks they need. I demonstrate very clearly in lessons how to do things. I am extremely methodical. If they want other tracks, or listening activities I will share it with them.
So, back to this particular school. After over-a-decade, you’d think that teachers would have seen what to do. And at the risk of sounding really egotistical, the music lessons I provide to teachers are really good. Really, really good, in fact. There were instruments there. There were backing tracks, both on-line and in CD format.
Sadly, the two fabulous principals I worked under left. Someone else came in. She called me ‘intimidating’ and wrote that my music lessons excluded children (not too my face, mind. Just on paper.). It was time for me to go, and with a heavy heart, I left. It was hard for me to leave a school I loved so much, but the staff had changed, and so had the culture of the school. I now hear that they are involved with a program run by another arts organisation that provides a few days of music training for teachers just for one year group. And that is their music program at the school.
I have nothing against this arts organisation. But we all know that a handful of training days does not an expert make. My reasonable husband said something like “But you should be happy – because a group of children get music lessons.” But we both knew it’ll be not-very-good music lessons.
And after all those years, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the guts. It doesn’t surprise me, knowing this principal. But it still knocked me for six.