This is a post I submitted as part of #ReLearnMusicTeaching on Twitter. This has been a super collaborative blogging effort I have occasionally contributed to during lockdown. It is a sequence of posts that discuss and unpack each of the tasks in ‘Learning To Teach in the Secondary School’. I have enjoyed reading the posts hugely. The post on the 5th June asked ‘what piece of advice have you been given that has made you the music teacher you are today’. My response is below.
The best piece of advice I ever received as a music teacher was given to me in my second job, three years into my career. The advice was given to me as part of an observation by a senior member of staff and that advice was simply ‘please be authentic’.
In that observation I was trying so hard to be something I wasn’t. It was obvious and I was awkward, uncomfortable and the lesson was too. I have reflected on the word authentic many times and have since held this as something I value and have encouraged in the teachers I have mentored over the years, encouraging them to bring their authenticity and not try to imitate mine or any one else’s around them.
There is no right answer, but I take it to mean the following:
-Being an active musician in my lessons, performing and improvising, making mistakes. Leading by example and not purely by direction.
-Being honest when I am not an expert. Listening to those around me, students included as no one can be an expert on everything.
-Admitting when I have got things wrong, musically or as a teacher. Being human is about mistakes and our responsibility as teachers is to model that and how we can solve them.
-Not trying to be something I am not, owning my musical abilities and styles (and lack of them!) with strength and pride.
-To have the faith to do things my way. Not trying to imitate another teacher, jump through hoops or use resources that I feel I ‘should’ use. The best lessons are always when I truly believe in the content and value of them.