How will I build partnerships with students, colleagues, families and community groups to enhance communication and learning?
A music teacher is a music advocate and usually the driving force behind any support the arts receive at the school. Music has an inherently social function and thus we find it at a focal point of community. If I want to be successful in building a great music program at my school, I first need to build partnerships with my students and their families, foster mutual cooperation and understanding with my co-workers and have a good, working relationship with my administration.
My best allies in advocating my music program will be the relationships I have built with my students and their families. When students and their parents have invested interest in my program, the school will be more likely to support the arts in their community. To build this partnership, I intend to make a personal commitment to getting to know each one of my students and communicate constantly with them and their parents. My syllabus will have to be signed by both the student and their parents, as will all of their tests, and they will need permission slips to attend concerts. I will call parents right from the start, facilitate regular parent-teacher meetings and try to form friendships with the parents outside their child’s success. When there is support from the home, I can succeed in developing within my students a sense of wonder and a depth of inquiry into music, but without this support nothing I teach will be reinforced or condoned. I will make every effort to encourage parent involvement in class projects and in performance venues, such as selling tickets to a musical or providing refreshment after a concert. The more families are on my side, the more successful I will be.
My co-workers, if I take the time to build positive relationships with them, will be my constant companions and advocates. Personally, I must make a commitment to be a good co-worker myself and constantly extend the laurel wreath of friendship to all my associates, no matter how differently we may view matters. I must also have a genuine interest in their subject matter and collaborate with them to optimize student learning across disciplines. In this teachers have an obligation for the sake of their students to build collaborative relationships. Music can offer contextual augmentation to any field of study, including history, physics, math English and foreign language, etc. The physical education teachers and coaches immediately benefit from having a pep-band and collaboration between the athletic and arts departments can be especially valuable. School communities are much more pleasant places to live and work if everyone is doing their part to get along and support the common mission.
Music educators and administration have a long and bitter history, one that I hope ends with me. I myself have vilified administrators and found their lack of enthusiasm for the arts cause to eschew their presence. This trend must cease if I wish to accomplish anything with the music program. In my role as music advocate I will constantly be playing the political game for resources and performance opportunities for my children. Patience will be indispensible for me as I gently but firmly try to remove any obstacles in the path of student success, especially with administrators who are skeptical at best about the real value of music compared to test scores and school accreditation. The fruit of the relationships I have built with students, their families and my fellow teachers will show themselves at the moments I wish to advocate the music program. A personal testimony is hard to argue with, and those prior relationships will make the difference between victory and defeat. I must seek to build good relationships with my administrators as well. I should ideally comet to see the principal, board members, and other school administrators as good friends and allies and get to know them individually as people.
Once I have paved the way for my students by setting up working relationships in the community, music can extend beyond my classroom walls and into the school and larger community. Performance opportunities such as pep-band and musicals are the most immediate means to involve them in the larger school community in the life of the arts, and collaboration between different subject areas such as history, art, or dance can be quite fruitful. For example, if the school should host a medieval banquet, the recorder ensemble which I fully intend to have in my program will be able to provide genuinely period entertainment for the “lords and ladies” present. Similarly, nothing brightens up the Christmas spirit like caroling parties, whether traveling from class to class in a school spirit of the holidays or outside the school traveling from house to house in the neighborhood.
I expect to involve my students in the larger community through philanthropic projects, such as singing or playing at nursing homes and performance funds can be donated to charitable causes. Having a thriving musical life is healthy for any community, offering a level of cultural refinement and giving students uplifting extra-curricular activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble. People want to be touched by beauty. Singing or playing with excellence can reach a person’s heart like nothing else, and part of my duty as a music teacher is to facilitate the exchange of wonder and delight that takes place between performer and audience in a performance setting. I want to be a part of the greater community, and I want the community to participate in the life of the arts in its school. As a music educator, I will be hard pressed to fill all the roles that come with that status. I must be open to welcoming any help parents and fellow musicians wish to give me. The teachers at ACES have been an inspiration to me in how a teacher can adapt college students as aids to bolster the curriculum and fill classroom needs. I may not be so fortunate as to have people offering their help, and thus I must be prepared to go out and humble myself by asking for help.
I can also be an advocate for music in the way I present myself and my craft. If I array myself with dignity and professionalism, the school and community will be more likely to treat my work with dignity and honor. I have always maintained a very high level of professionalism in my dress and in my mannerisms, though sometimes my tendencies err on the side of artistic expressionism. I also act with decorum among my fellow teachers and my superiors, though I occasionally must make an effort to curb my tongue least I become insubordinate in the face of a disagreement. To be a professional music educator, I must continue to develop within myself a readiness to serve and a humble disposition. A musician is a servant, though I cringe at the word, and we offer our services to humanity as a labor of love. When one gives a gift, it is customary to present the gift wrapped in a bright array of ribbon and ceremony. My gift to the world is my life as a music teacher, and it is the least I can do to array my gift with all the dignity it and its receivers deserve.