Music teachers…how many of you have been called the planning teacher or the specials class? I taught at a pretty great school where I felt like my job was valued and what I did mattered. But, I was still called a specials teacher and was lumped into this category with the librarian, counselor, and gifted and talented teachers. (We didn’t have art at my school and this is a whole other can of worms that irritated me and I will write about in another blog post.) Here are the reasons the title of “specials teacher” or feeling like I was just there to cover planning period for the “real teachers” bothered me so much…
Yes I have a real college degree
Oh…my…gosh… You would not believe the number of times that a parent or even a teacher (yes this happened twice) were in shock when I explained that you had to have a degree in Music Education to teach music. I heard questions like “Oh that’s a thing?” or “Can’t anyone do this job?” or even the statement “But it’s just a music class.” Wow…just wow. Here is a quick synopsis of how much work goes into getting a music education degree.
- Usually years of music lessons in voice or an instrument before even entering college
- In college, along with the normal course load (which is a ton of work), music majors spend countless hours in the practice rooms preparing for jury, recitals, ensembles they are in, or just practicing to improve
- We take a lot of the same education classes that someone with a degree in elementary education takes
- We sit in public school classrooms doing several hours of practicums and then student teach in an elementary classroom AND a secondary classroom
- A lot of times our degrees aren’t finished in exactly 4 years because we want to take one extra course, one extra ensemble, or already took so many hours each semester we just couldn’t fit one more hour in to graduate on time
- We probably have one hour a day of “free time” and a lot of times that hour is still spent either in the practice rooms or studying
Being called a specials teacher
Listen…I understand that all art, music, computer, library, and even counselors are labeled specialists. I get it. Just like the kinder, first, and second grade teachers are called lower grades and the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers are called upper grades, our group of teachers need to be called something. So, here’s how I look at it. When I would get called a specials teacher instead of the music teacher, I would just smile instead of getting defensive. You want to know why? We are pretty special. Music teachers can reach kids like no other teacher can. I love how when a student feels unsuccessful in reading or math, they can come to music class and feel like they accomplished something huge. It is also pretty special that since an elementary music teacher has every child in their school, a lot of times they get to see them grow up right before their eyes. It is really special how I could get a kindergartner who knew nothing about music and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and by the 5th grade, they ended up being one of my top singers and even made the honor choir.
This book The Muses Go To School: Inspiring Stories About The Importance of Arts in Education does a PHENOMENAL job explaining why music education is so very important.
I miss my planning period too
The thing about planning period, is it is state mandated for EVERY teacher. The amount of times my planning period was cut into because of an assembly I had to help with, a dress rehearsal for one of my programs, a field trip I took my honor’s choir on, or because I had student’s in my room during my plan time to give them extra help, happened a lot. I think planning time is so important and there are several teachers who are flexible if their planning time got cut into that day and there were teachers who wouldn’t let me hear the end of it (when most of the time it wasn’t my fault.)
A lot happens in those 40 minutes of music class
From the second the children walk in the door until the second they leave, we are doing non stop learning. I had parents, paraprofessionals, my principal, and other teachers sit in on me teaching a lesson and at the end of class say “wow I had no idea the kids learned so much in here.” That’s what bothers me. They don’t know. There is TONS of cross curricular learning happening in a music class, but the most awesome thing they are learning is…wait for it…MUSIC. We are constantly feeling like we need to justify why we teach music. I actually wrote a blog post about why music education is important. We feel like we need to explain how we are reaching all of the subjects, how music helps the brain and how it improves test scores, but can’t we simply just say we teach music because kids need to learn music? It is important all on it’s own and doesn’t need to be justified. Music teachers, you know what you do and how important it is, and you’re doing a great job at reaching these kids who need music in their little lives.
I would love to hear your comments about this topic. Are there any other titles that you have been called? Have you felt like you have to justify yourself to your coworkers and parents?
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