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.
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.