Five Lessons I’ve Learned: #2: Scheduling Affects Everything

This is part 2 in a series of posts related to mistakes I’ve made or seen among younger teachers.

I vividly remember one of my graduate pedagogy courses when the prof began to lecture about the subject of scheduling music classes. As he began his introduction, I mentally checked out and thought to myself, “What difference does this make? The school administrators will determine the music schedule, and I’ll disseminate my bounty of musical knowledge to the students who show up.”

It wasn’t long at all, the very next September in fact, that I realized that scheduling affects everything. If your music classes conflict with other required courses, you may not have the students you want because of their scheduling conflicts. For example, in my first year of teaching high school, the Advanced Placement courses were offered at the same time as music. Therefore, the brightest music students had to choose between music and classes which offered college credit. Guess which they chose? (I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t music!)

As an elementary music teacher, I have a little more flexibility with scheduling because the schools are generally not on a strict bell schedule. However, there are always blocks of time which are likely to conflict with music. For example, I’ve unknowingly scheduled certain students in music when their class goes to computer lab or library. Some students have music classes during subjects which they’re not great at, like math or science, then their grades fall, then they have to quit music.

What does all this mean? It means that as music teachers we need to be aware of what else is happening on campus and try to schedule classes with the least conflicts. It also means that we need to be proactive if school administrators try to change the schedule of classes in ways that affect music. In the high school experience I mentioned, if I had been a more seasoned teacher, I would have spoken with the principal or counselor to find a way to allow students to enroll in music and the AP classes. In my current elementary situation, it means showing my proposed music schedules to teachers and administrators to get their help finding potential conflicts.

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2 thoughts on “Five Lessons I’ve Learned: #2: Scheduling Affects Everything

  1. Hi, I think an interesting issue your post raises is the relative importance of subjects. In the UK it is a bit of a lottery, some schools will prioritise music over most other subjects whilst others will place music at the bottom of the list. I guess speaking to the principle and administrators in the way you suggest will highlight the relative importance of music to the school and therefore give a better clue as to your scheduling options.

  2. Your comment is very thought provoking. I’m not sure if I have always considered music to be “more important” than other subjects, but it certainly feels like music teachers have to work hard to maintain the importance and position of our program among all the others. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which administrators and other department heads would make decisions with the music program as the highest priority.

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