If you become a music teacher in a secondary school you have a unique opportunity to inspire young musicians and to give young people a lifelong love of music. Here at BEC Teacher Training we see the amazing results every day, so we decided to find out why becoming a music teacher is so rewarding.
‘Music is all around us. It is the soundtrack to our lives. Music connects us through people and places in our ever-changing world. It is creative, collaborative, celebratory and challenging. In our schools, music can bring communities together through the shared endeavour of whole-school singing, ensemble playing, experimenting with the creative process and, through the love of listening to friends and fellow pupils, performing. The sheer joy of music making can feed the soul of a school community, enriching each student while strengthening the shared bonds of support and trust which make a great school.’ It might surprise you to learn that this passionate advocacy of the central importance of music teaching in schools comes from the Model Music Curriculum published by the Department for Education in March 2021. Music teachers certainly agree though, which is not surprising as the profession was consulted extensively before the document was written.
To get a clearer idea of what it means to become a music teacher in a secondary school, we talked to Sue, who is Head of Music in a large comprehensive school here in Essex. She previously worked in events management, but told us teaching music is far more rewarding: ‘because I get to do my favourite thing every day!’ The most satisfying part of the job for her is seeing students progress and mature in musical understanding. As a subject that involves research, problem solving, independence, creativity, presentation and performance skills, music offers many opportunities to develop all the key skills young learners need. Yet Sue feels music is also unusual in its ability to create real emotional engagement in students. Indeed, she especially values the fact that students with Special Educational Needs are able to achieve well in their music lessons, with many of her most successful students in this group. She explains that many students on the Autistic Spectrum in particular respond well to the logic and formal features of music and are able to find in it a potent means of self-expression. A firm believer in rigour and high standards, Sue insists on the importance of teaching theory in an engaging way and finds that even younger students readily respond to the challenge of reading musical notation. Alongside the timetabled curriculum, she normally provides a wide range of extra-curricular activities to enable students to develop their unique talents. Before school and at lunch times the department is buzzing with purposeful activity as groups such as the KS3 Music Club, the vocal group, the string group and the school ensemble work in the various practice rooms and performance areas. Then there is of course the annual big ticket whole school music production to prepare for and musical contributions to awards events, drama productions and other key school events to organise. Of course, this is a lot of work. The music used has to be carefully chosen and arranged to take account of the mix of instruments students can play and their current level, a task which is challenging but intellectually satisfying too. It also takes time to prepare nervous young musicians to perform in public although it is immensely rewarding when they succeed, gaining tremendous self-confidence as a result.
Music teachers like Sue can be a source of lifelong inspiration for students. Tony, for example, worked for many years as a music teacher before developing his career to focus on teacher training. He still feels incredibly fortunate to have been able to make so much impact on young people’s lives, something which is really brought home to him when former students like healthcare worker Simon make the effort to get in touch. In the midst of the Covid pandemic Simon was reflecting on the role of music in his life. He tracked Tony down and emailed to tell him: ‘music is such a massive and important part of my life still and often think back to you being such an inspiration for starting it off. To be frank I didn’t have a good time at school but I had such a great time in music class. You were so enthusiastic every class and to those who were keen you nurtured that passion. No teacher has had a more profound impact on me.’
We’d love to hear about music teachers who inspired you and where music has taken you in your life. To share your stories, or to find out more about training as a music teacher, contact Christine or visit our main website at BEC Teacher Training.