In my first year of teaching, as overwhelmed as I was, I was too much of a control freak to allow others to help with certain tasks in running the music program. I’ve since learned that there is great mutual benefit in getting others involved.
This post is part 1 of 3. In other posts, I write about getting parents and other staff involved. Here, I’ll share some thoughts about students’ help.
Students are capable of helping a lot more than we (or I!) might give them credit. Even elementary students can help with the more mundane tasks of sharpening pencils, putting away chairs, folding concert programs, and sorting papers like sheet music or practice records. I often think of one music teacher colleague who is brilliant at getting students to help him with just about any task. Even if the task is a complete no-brainer, it gives students a chance to get involved and feel they have contributed something. (“Here, hold this pencil for me.” “Can you hold the door open while I move this box?”) Plus, working together gives you a chance to connect with students on a non-musical level and let them know you are interested in their lives.
A youth leader from my junior high days often comes to mind. He was a very charismatic person, and kids often talked about how much he influenced their lives. Later, as an adult, I had the chance to talk with him about what he attributed his success to. He told me, in effect, that he never passed up an opportunity to make an impression on kids. He said whenever possible, he tried to take kids with him wherever he went and create teachable moments. “Even on a trip to the grocery store, you can have a meaningful conversation with someone if you try.”
Of course times have changed, and I wouldn’t advise teachers to hang out with students off campus like this. His role as a youth pastor was different than a school music teacher, but I think the principle still has application. I often have students who come to the music room before or after school looking for a place to hang out. I can pretty safely bet they haven’t come for a lesson in building harmonic minor scales or refining their embouchures. They have probably come because you provide a safe environment where students are free to learn and grow and be themselves.
Do you have specific ways you involve students in running your music program? Share your ideas with the world here!