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Practice-sharing and networking, by teachers, for teachers

An article written by Sound Connections Programme Coordinator Zoë Carassik-Lord.

“My dad was my secondary school music teacher, from Year 8 right through to GCSE. He was half of a two-person department, worked only part-time, and had little opportunity to meet other local music teachers. Despite this, he gave his music teaching his all – coaxing even the most reluctant of singers into the school choir with rousing renditions of Disney songs, introducing whole-class ukulele ensembles once he (and his pupils) were sick of the sound of the recorder, and setting up extra-curricular music and drama groups in lunchtimes and after school.

I’m thinking of my dad and his experiences as a music teacher a lot at the moment, as we embark on building Music Excellence London (MEL) – a network of London’s Key Stage 3 Music teachers. In consultations with teachers during the early planning stage of MEL, recurring themes echoed my dad’s experiences from years ago: feelings of isolation and having to be an advocate for your own subject, the constant battle for space in the timetable, the disappointment when one of your best musicians tells you they’re dropping Music next year in favour of an extra science to better their chances of going to a good university. Now, it looks like things are set to get even harder for today’s Music teachers, with an EBacc-shaped shadow looming large over schools, and arts subjects being relegated to ‘buckets’ with undesirably high numbers reflecting their ‘value’ or lack, thereof…

That’s why Music Excellence London, and initiatives like it, is really important. By bringing together the communities of teachers, cultural organisations, music education hubs and educationalists created through the Teach Through Music and Peer to Peer professional development programmes of last year, we’re building a space where Music teachers will be empowered to face those challenges head on, with support from each other. Sound Connections, Trinity Laban, and Music Mark are certainly not the experts when it comes to life on the KS3 frontline, but we do know a thing or two about making connections, bringing different stakeholders together in debate and discussion, and making music. All musics.

One key feature of MEL is a series of six TeachMeets, hosted by teachers for teachers, which focus on specific issues relating to KS3 Music. A TeachMeet is an informal bringing together of teachers to share practice, learn tips from each other, and – most importantly – network. The idea being that the more people turn up with their ideas, the more inspiration you can implement in your classroom the next day. In MEL TeachMeets, the host (the Head of Music in that particular school) facilitates a quick-fire session, where attendees bring with them ideas, tools and skills to share in the form of 5-minute (mini) presentations, or 2-minute (nano) presentations. Sometimes the host kick-starts the session by sharing their own presentation, or by inviting a fellow ‘inspirer’ – another teacher or organisation they might have worked with. Through Sound Connections’ series of ‘PlayDates’ – our early years music-themed TeachMeets – we know that this structure of informal and fast-paced practice sharing and networking is effective and immediately beneficial to attendees’ practice. We’re looking forward to getting stuck into the MEL TeachMeets with our KS3 Music community.

The current situation, whilst dark at times, certainly has its pockets of KS3 Music brilliance – one of the pleasures of working on the Teach Through Music programme was meeting some of London’s most innovative and inspirational teachers from all walks of musical life. MEL aims to shout loud about those teachers’ schools and work, whilst beckoning the less confident or disempowered teachers with a genuine call to come join us – let’s face the music and teach well together.”

The next MEL TeachMeet will be held at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith on Thursday 1 December 2016 at 4.30pm, hosted by MEL Teacher Advocates Leigh O’Hara and Katie Hasler.

Click here to book your free place now >

Join the Music Excellence London network here, and be the first to hear about upcoming TeachMeets, webinars and Inspire Events.



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