Music teachers face a number of common problems, especially during their first few years in the classroom. Many of these predicaments, such as student behavioral issues and conflict with administrators, are not unique to music classrooms; however, they often present a unique set of obstacles for music instructors. In particular, budget cuts tend to adversely affect music teachers, forcing them to defend not only their jobs, but the very concept of a musical education.
The following are some of the most common challenges in music education, as well as several proposed solutions:
When school districts face budgetary crises, administrators tend to focus their resources solely on core subjects, such as English and math, leaving arts and elective classes unfunded. The usual rationale for savaging arts education is that parents can always enroll their children in extracurricular activities outside of school. However, paying for music lessons isn't always an option for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
In addition to affecting students, budget cuts also adversely impact music teachers. Not only do they lose their livelihood, but music instructors must also cope with the fact that their work appears to be of little value to their employer. This is especially egregious because music teachers typically undergo additional specialized training after earning the same teaching credentials obtained by their nonmusical peers.
While children with problem behaviors are present in every type of instructional setting, dealing with them in a music classroom can be especially difficult. Ironically, music is one of the few subjects that can actually help children with behavioral issues and other special needs. Even though music class is creative and fun, music is highly important to a child’s academic and social development.
To effectively deal with in-class disruptions, music teachers should seek to develop a rapport with students. They should also consider revamping their lesson plans in order to maintain the focus of these students while giving well-behaving students the time and attention they deserve. It is important to stress the benefits of music and encourage participation by delivering lessons in a way that engages all students.
Understand that each child will have different educational needs, and while it may be hard to address each one individually, particularly in large classes, it's still worth it to at least try. Parental Involvement, praise, and constructive criticism are just a few techniques that have produced good results in music classrooms. It's also vital that teachers set boundaries and help students understand that disciplinary expectations and consequences in music class are the same as in any other classroom.
Transition to a New Teaching Role
The first few years of teaching, or of teaching in a new role, are inarguably the most difficult period in any educator’s career. While the student-teaching experience is supposed to make the shift from college to one’s first job easier, many new teachers still find the transition period rather trying. According to a 2000 study conducted by a professor at the University of Western Australia, classroom management was a top concern of new music teachers, and many felt unprepared to manage students once in charge of their own classroom.
Stressed-out teachers can find it hard to exercise proper judgment when faced with administrative pressure or challenging students. For this reason, it's important that novice educators understand what feelings that are likely to crop up once they are in the classroom. They should also identify techniques for effective stress management.
Large Class Size
High student-to-teacher ratios are commonplace in many school districts. However, this situation is especially problematic in music classrooms. Cultivating natural talent and encouraging kids to explore their creative sides are main goals of music instructors, but accomplishing these goals in overcrowded classrooms can be nearly impossible.
Most school districts must follow strict mandates related to class size. Yet, these mandates often do not apply to fine arts classes like music. Having a large class size is certainly desirable when it comes to ensemble performances, but it isn't ideal in the everyday class environment. Tips for managing large class size include learning to embrace some of the chaos, helping students work in groups, and finding creative ways to get to know each student.
Given the common misperceptions about music education and its importance to overall academic performance, music instructors in schools must confront challenges head on. Research has proven time and time again that music is an important aspect of a child's educational experience. Therefore, teachers should work to spread this message while proactively managing their classes.