This is the End

Every teacher has heard it before: Preschool is the foundation for elementary school. Elementary school is the foundation for junior high. Junior High teachers must teach the necessary skills for students’ success in high school, and so on. Each level lays the groundwork for the next.

Really?

Why can’t the general music class for primary students just be an end in itself? Does beginning band have to function solely as preparation for intermediate band? Can’t each of these ensembles be an enjoyable experience on it’s own?

A few years ago, I started to get discouraged about the percentage of my former elementary students who continue in music in middle school.  (I have since learned that much of this is due to scheduling issues, or opportunities for junior highers which elementary schools don’t offer.) As an elementary teacher, have I failed as a teacher if my students choose not to continue to play their instruments in junior high?

Because I teach grades 3-6,  I have always tried to prepare for students for the next level in my own program. But in doing so, I wonder if I may be discouraging some students by challenging them beyond their abilities. And I know that in some cases I have discouraged myself by focusing on student’s inabilities rather than celebrating their accomplishments.

In many ways, this issue is related to my resolution to make music classes fun.

Does all this mean I will fail to teach the skills necessary for junior high music? Probably not. But it does mean I will remember to enjoy each moment with my students, to treat them not only as future music majors but as kids who deserve to have fun making music.

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11 thoughts on “This is the End

  1. Pingback: A Musical Experience | BNC Education

  2. We have discussed this before, Steve, and I very much agree with you. I don’t like it when music teachers talk about how music helps math abilities. I think we should point our students doing something musical is valuable, period. Playing hot cross buns is worth it, even if it does not lead to playing jingle bells.

    • Hi Jason. Obviously this post is based on conversations we’ve had. I think often of your mantra, “Joy Before Theory.” I’m not sure how well I do with this, especially as we are in the final push before Winter concerts. But I’m learning to re-evaluate my own goals for each student and to make “joy” a higher priority.

  3. I completely agree with you. In my province, general music runs from k-6, and then students have the option of continuing into instrumental music when they reach jr. high school. Unfortunately, due to budgeting (of course), there are firm limits on the number of students that can join the band programs in junior high, leaving many students without music instruction after grade 6 unless they pursue private lessons or external ensembles. There are not any general music classes or music appreciations classes beyond grade 6. Knowing this makes me want to give my students the richest musical experience possible while I have them for 7 years, because this really is the end for a lot of them.

    P.S. I used to be msgallant.edublogs.org – starting something new in the very near future at missmusicteacher.wordpress.com

  4. I agree with the premise of the article that music-making should be a positive experience in its own right. Perhaps it’s just the wording, but I hope the focus is not purely on making music fun, but also on creating meaningful musical experiences.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. Music education is an end in itself. We need to provide the best musical experiences for each child at the time. Whatever it leads to, so be it.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. I spent years playing drums in the band and, though I only played through high school and never really “did” anything with my training, I can say that my band experiences were some of the best overall memories from school.

    I was also fortunate to have a marginally “insane” choir direcor in Junior High (I mean that with tremendous respect and in all “the good ways”). He made every concert a “rock concert” to us. We learned all different kinds of music, but what we really learned was an enthusiasm FOR music.

    We teach music because to understand music is to better understand our humanity. These are the tools with which we examine the soul!

    Thank you all for everythig you do to promote music study. What a difference it made in my life!

  7. Sometimes I feel that it has to be more than just the responsibility of the single music teacher to make music important to children. Certainly, the teacher plays a very important part, but if she is the only person in the entire school system, or even community promoting a musical education, then of course there aren’t going to be as many children continuing their music studies into high school and beyond. As a music teacher myself, I understand how frustrating this can be – my own father, as encouraging as he was in my profession, to this day puts music on the back burner in terms of importance in life. I think there has to be a larger support group for music advocacy: the more people who believe in a musical education, the more children will feel that it’s either important or that it’s okay to continue. Kind of like peer pressure, but the good kind.

  8. I just happened to stumble across this post literally 2 days after writing the same sentiments in a personal journal. Looking forward to diving into this blog some more!

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