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Frustrations for Music Teachers at Christmas

In the good ole’ days, Christmas was easy.  Everyone knew the songs you did and the Christmas show was invariably the same.  All you needed was a piano and some tea towels.  Now it is a lot more complicated and there are certain things you can and cannot do.

  1. You cannot sing traditional songs – “Away in a Manger” is banned as it mentions the “Little Lord Jesus”.  One head said we could sing it if we changed the word “Lord” to “child”.  “While shepherd’s watched” is meaningless because they are not watching anything any more.
  2. You cannot mention Jesus – he is banned in many schools unless they are faith schools.  You can mention Santa as much as you like.
  3. All music must be recorded in three formats – 1) normal speed with vocals, 2) normal speed without vocals and 3) slow speed for rehearsal.  This has to be recorded as you would exactly play it on the piano on the concert day.  A robot would be much more beneficial than a trained music teacher.
  4. The songs for Christmas will not be chosen by a music teacher but by someone who knows nothing about music.  This person will then instruct the music teacher exactly what they have to play based on a 12 second audio recording from YouTube.  This is no joke, this really did happen.
  5. The music will have to be re-scored for the purposes required in point 3, the key changed so the children can attempt to sing it, new words created so they scan properly and the whole thing reduced in difficulty as they are originally written for professional pop or opera singers.

What are the implications of this?

  1. A shared common experience between generations has now been eradicated
  2. It de-professionalises trained music teachers
  3. All those resources and songbooks built over many years might as well be thrown away

I have nothing against good quality non-religious Christmas concerts.  It’s just depressing that most of the alternatives are pretty devoid of content.  If you do want to do a non-traditional Christmas show I would recommend many of the publications by “Out of the Ark” rather than relying on Youtube.

A Friend’s Room

A friend of mine who is also a music teacher has his room set up like this:

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I love the stands and how the beaters are laid neatly on the instruments.  This is set up for 12 players and then the rest will play untuned percussion or singing.  Would love to do this myself but will have to wait a few years to save up.

Carpet Spaces

I have made seating plans for all my Y1 and Y2 classes.  It’s worked really well today.  Basically I have surrounded our most distracted children with focused learners so they have noone to feed off.  Let’s see how the rest of the week goes. 

Royal Wedding at the bottom of the Cupboard

I have managed to chuck needless paper and useless resources today.  This reminded me of one of the worst schools I have ever taught in.  This school had no instruments, no schemes of work and had been led by the same person for 30 years.  How on earth the school kept her on defies belief.  Anyway, I was teaching there for about 8 months and I got told off for trying to sort through a cupboard searching vainly for some instruments.  I just simply did not believe there were no instruments in the music department.  But it was true, there were no instruments, just cupboards full of rubbish that noone had bothered to sort through.  In amongst the crisp packets and coke cans I found a book about Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue for their “wedding” from Neighbours and also I found a wedding book about Prince Charles and Lady Diana from the early 80’s.  This was in 2007. 

I left soon after but the last time I looked she was still at the school and had been promoted four times.  Every job she did was a disaster.  Why do some schools keep promoting people who do such bad jobs?  I just don’t get it.

Mini Drum Kit

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This is a mini drum kit for use with KS1 pupils.  It is pretty good quality but cheap.  The company that makes them is called Mr. Drumm.  We have some very good drum kit students at school.  My aim is to give them some supervised practice time and make sure that at least one pupil in every class can play the drums.  We start school early and so Drum Club will be at 7am.  Great way to wake up in the morning!

Bell Table

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Here is my bell table for the children to select bells.  The bells at the back are the chromatic and extra range bells.  I got the bells from MES (music education supplies).  They are great and they are cheap but do not last forever.  It’s best to buy 3 or 4 of the octave bells and one set of the chromatic range for a whole class.  That will cost you about $100 in total.  Then you will need to replace one octave every 2 or 3 years as they get worn out pretty quickly.  This is an inexpensive way of performing music.  In a later post I will explain how we perform them in class.

Some Things That Make Me Cross

At the age of 14 most children will end their musical education in UK schools.  By this time they will have probably had 10 years of lessons.  Most schools have music lessons for an hour a week.  So that’s approximately 35 weeks a year.  That means they will have had about 350 hours of music lessons in their relatively short lifetime.

So why at the age of 14 do so many children tell me (thankfully not in my school) that they can’t play a musical instrument?  And why can’t they tell the difference between a violin and a cello?  And how can you get through 350 hours and not know what a bassoon is?