Why do we need the arts in education?

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read this. I am extremely excited at the opportunity to share my ideas and have some objective feedback! Secondly, please forgive me for a lack acknowledgement for ‘art’ as a subject in its own right. However, all ‘creative’ subjects’ and the skills I believe they teach learners play an important role in this discussion. Moreover, I would like to set out from the off that I am writing this from a very personal viewpoint and leaving out any references to further research to make the post as short as possible, and to stir up as big a discussion as possible.

I mostly wanted to write this blog to gather feedback from teachers of all subjects about your feelings about the arts in education. So please write from the heart when commenting on this blog! Moreover, in this current educational climate where many subjects are ‘under threat’ I believe it provides us with a fantastic opportunity to assess the merits of all subjects and how and why we teach what we do. Obviously the National Curriculum, GCSEs, BTECs and A levels dictate what we teach, therefore, we have to teach within these ‘restrictions’ (my personal view). I hope to present a slightly different view of the arts and the transferable skills with which they provide our learners.

 

The process

IDEA – – – – > DEVELOP – – – – > REFINE – – – – > PRESENT

The Idea

This is the point where someone has the confidence to have an original idea or thought and know that they can develop and refine it through the process. In music this could be a small melody and drum pattern, in engineering class it could be an original theory that tests new ways of erecting bridges and in an english lesson it could be a new way of writing narrative that has never been seen before. These original ideas are the most powerful currency we hold as we move our learners into the future. Giving learners the confidence to generate and develop these ideas should be one of our main educational priorities.

The Development

This is where previous knowledge and subject specific skills meet creativity, where ideas are stretched and objectively challenged through confident arguments and judgements. In a school setting this is where we can truly see that learners have understood concepts and how to apply them to new ideas (which is what we hope they will do in their future jobs and vocations?). This is taught in music all the time. We develop melodies by extending, layering and fusing new ideas together. Learners are given the confidence to create individual work and display it to their classmates whilst it is still just a ‘work in progress’. If we can encourage more of this in all our teaching we could see a never ending stream of new and creative ideas flowing through our schools.

The Refinement

Another developmental step, but an important one. It is mostly the same concept as drafting work, but in a creative way. Learners still apply previously learnt knowledge and concepts as they mould and shape their work. This occurs through performance and composition in music lessons where learners use teacher and peer feedback to improve their work. This step is important in breeding the confidence to continually improve concepts and work, a skill that anyone would like to see in any subject and workplace alike!

The Presentation

This area is much talked about and I do not want to repeat the ‘confidence gained through performance argument’ (even if I do wholeheartedly subscribe to it). I feel the ability to present new ideas, information and concepts is an invaluable skill that all learners need to acquire. The ability to confidently present your original ideas and explain their developmental process is the final hurdle in turning abstract concepts into reality. If all learners could deliver their thoughts and ideas as well as the world’s best inspirational public speakers and performers I feel that we would have a huge amount of innovative ideas that will drive our workforces and economy through every test the future holds.

So …

This is a very basic model of the process that I believe the arts teach (it is the process I aim to instill through teaching composition and performance). From an objective viewpoint I can see that these can be taught within other subjects, but I do not feel the ‘process’ would be acknowledged enough when taught away from the arts. To (hopefully) spark some debate I would argue that leaving this invaluable process in the hands of English, Maths and the Sciences would leave too much room for tokenism, much the same way that embedding numeracy in a music lesson would. It is not that the process would not be acknowledge and applied, it is just that I do not think it would be a truly transferable skill for the learner. Therefore, I feel that teaching the arts ‘as they are’ would allow learners to apply this invaluable creative process to all aspects of the curriculum.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this post, please feel to comment and retweet!

Two stars and a wish (and a wish and wish…)

NQT Music Teacher – @music_musictech

 

Two stars and a wish (and a wish and wish…)

 

An introduction…

 

After planning on writing my first blog at the end of my first week of being an NQT I am finally getting around to completing the task at the end of the term! The initial term has served to fuel the fires that made me passionate about teaching and learning before I even submitted an application to be considered on the PGCE course.

 

The school environment, that flows down from the senior management team and my head of department, truly makes me want to be the most inspiring, inclusive and passionate teacher I can possibly be. We are working extremely hard to create and maintain a true sense of family within the school and I believe we can achieve this using the fantastic relationships that already exist between staff, learners and parents.

 

Inspired by Rachel Jones’ ‏@rlj1981 blog named ‘Show me the money’ (July 15th, 2013) it makes perfect sense for me to use my first blog to comment on some of things that haven’t gone so well to date and state how I will improve on them (that way i’ll have to have done something positive by the time I post my next blog!).

 

Wishes (areas for improvement)…

 

  • Consistency of teaching, planning and behaviour management

 

During the next term I will strive to improve the consistency and overall quality of my planning, teaching and behaviour management. After experimenting with a few different lesson plan templates (even my own which reflects the Welsh Government’s national priorities) I felt that the greatest learning took place when I had used the ‘5 minute lesson plan’ from @TeacherToolkit. The focused nature of the plan forced me to think hard about what the learners really needed to gain from their hour in the classroom with me.

 

I made the NQT (rookie) error of trying to use the same lesson plan with classes who were at the same stage within the unit of work. THIS DID NOT WORK! When the plan was used for every individual class the lessons were so much more successful and enjoyable for both the learners and myself. Therefore, I will plan EVERY INDIVIDUAL LESSON throughout the next term (and ideally my whole career)! I may even tweet a picture of them in order to maintain a level of personal accountability.

 

I personally believe, mostly because I see it reflected in my own daily practice, that well planned learning activities almost always make behaviour management easier. I feel this happens for two reasons (probably very obvious ones to experienced teachers):

– Learners that are more engaged in their learning do tend to stay on task

– When clear objectives are established and acknowledged by all it is easier to keep the learners on track

 

Therefore, in order to test this assumption with more scrutiny I will again make the personal promise to improve my planning and implementation of the plans throughout the rest of the academic year.

 

  • Strategies to deal with disruptive students

 

I believe that all teachers deal with students in the way that they feel is best. I have always aimed to create an inclusive and secure atmosphere inside my classroom and apply the same feeling to individual discussions with disruptive students. However, on three occasions this term I feel I could have dealt with some disruptive learners in a much more constructive manner. On each occasion, after using and failing with my usual approach, I allowed the individual learner to ‘wind me up’. This meant that the focus of the conversation shifted from the incident and the ‘why’ of the conversation and focused on the learner and their personality. BIG MISTAKE! Each time I allowed this to happen there were no positive outcomes for either party, and each incident only served to destroy the chances of a positive learning relationship being formed.

 

On reflection, and after getting a little bit more teaching experience under my belt I now know that there is not one way to deal with all these individual learners. I try to walk around the school at break times and lunch times and say hello and talk to these specific pupils outside of the music classroom. I attempt to start every lesson ‘fresh’ and leave any poor behaviour and attitude in the last week. It is not perfect, and I still have A LOT to learn, but these little changes have made a big impact with at least two out of the 3 learners mentioned above.

Overall, 2014 should be a fantastic year for my school and our music department. With a growing number of learners taking part in extracurricular activities and concerts, a ‘feel good’ vibe established in the department and an exciting Music Scheme of Work rewrite still ahead of us, things are looking good. I will keep blogging and hope to receive as much feedback as possible from anyone who takes the time read the blog. Thank you for reading!