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Are you feeling less motivated to teach because your enrollment numbers are dropping?

Are fewer and fewer students attending lessons because they don't want to miss (or are not allowed to miss) Common Core classes?

Do you wonder if  you can pull off the next concert with less rehearsals than ever before?

Common Core has brought fundamental change to the way we teach and the way children learn. Some feel it is better, some worse, but either way, it appears to be here to stay.

How are you adapting to Common Core?

Dr. Peter Boonshaft

Dr. Peter Boonshaft

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Peter Boonshaft for my radio show on the BAM Radio Network. He took time out of his extremely busy schedule to chat about this very important topic.

The following question has been on my mind for awhile, as I have spoken with many music teachers and witnessed many changes that have not been favorable to music education.

What suggestions do you have for motivating music teachers in the Age of Common Core?

“This is the set of cards I have been dealt, so how am I going to play them the best way I can so every child succeeds as best as possible?”

For some teachers, music classes have been cut and/or students have been dropped to accommodate more tutoring in Common Core classes. Some are being told to teach Common Core subjects within major ensemble rehearsal times. This has led some teachers to lose motivation to teach, and others to outright leave the field.

Others have been able to form partnerships with general education teachers to bring music and Common Core subjects to both areas of the student's education.

As teachers, we have 2 choices: we can continue to “fight” Common Core, or we can embrace it and see how we can use it to help our students learn better.

Fighting it, protesting, holding rallies, has not slowed its progression, nor made our programs any bigger. There is a better way to “fight it” that can raise awareness for the importance of our programs, which you will hear in the interview.

There are different, interesting and fun ways we can embrace it, which can help build rapport and support amongst non-arts colleagues and administrators, and keep our motivation and love for teaching high. Many teachers have probably incorporated these already at some time in their career.

Since Music incorporates so many different skills, ways of learning and thinking, and different subjects, we already are following the new standards and concepts, and have been for a long time.

“Many teachers do not realize is that we already do so much of what Common Core is asking of teachers. We just have to document or label it a different way, or incorporate math skills a different way.”

How do we promote music education WITHOUT tying it to Common Core subjects?

“The reason to study any subject is to have a different lens to view your world through.” Federico Fellini

If you follow social media sites, you have noticed that fellow educators as well as local and National advocacy groups, such as NafMe have showed how music education can benefit the learning of other subjects. On any given day, there are quite a few articles showing how music can help students do better in math or science, how it helps children use their entire brains, etc. These are all great articles and important studies that must be done. Unfortunately, we have had to do this to justify our position at the table in education in the eyes of administrators, politicians and the public.

The concern is that we also need to justify music as its own entity, without losing its identity as a vital element to culture and expression in society. What is society without music and art? We can just look back in history and see the serious negative ramifications.

Dr. Boonshaft gives a key piece of advice:

“The way to do this is to make people experience and feel music. There is a lack of understanding of what goes into a music rehearsal and performance. This is essentially advocacy.”

Music programs have been cut every time there is economic difficulties. (Remember the movie Mr. Holland's Opus?) As a result, many administrators, parents, politicians and members of the public have not had a proper music education and cannot fully appreciate all the levels of learning that go on during a rehearsal or class session. Having them participate will allow them to experience all the various ways students are learning. When we experience something, the learning tends to stay with us much longer than just reading about it. This can go a long way in supporting music education in your community and motivating non-Arts teachers and administrators to support music education.

A final key point that we addressed in the interview was this:

“As educators, we need to keep the vision about what is important about music education. It needs to be taught for its own sake. Music education is an important skill and a way for children to view their world and be creative human beings.”

Action Steps:

  1. How have you embraced Common Core in your teaching situation? Let's start a helpful dialogue in the Comments below…
  2. Listen to my interview with Dr. Peter Boonshaft, and please SHARE amongst colleagues and administrators.