Sunday, 18 October 2009

Teaching - the hardest gig? Part One

Performing for adults, although not always a breeze, is very different from entertaining children. For a start, adults have chosen to be there and are generally predisposed to having a good time. Kids, in school anyway, are there under sufferance and are not usually allowed to start chatting amongst themselves or drift off to the bar.

As a classroom teacher there is time in which to get to know a group and build a relationship. As a freelancer it's often a completely new class each time: new kids and new teacher in charge. There is usually, even within the same school, a completely different culture: ground rules and acceptable standards of behaviour are never the same twice. Yet every teacher seems surprised that there may be other ways of doing things.

I am presently in the middle of a series of sessions in which I am trying to revive interest in learning woodwind at a local high school. The place had just built a new library and created a sixth form when the old head retired. He was replaced by a man who was the perfect embodiment of the Peter Principle (by which members of an organisation rise to their level of incompetence). Within two years he had turned the school around, nosediving it into a failed inspection and a 'special measures' regime. Parents capable of exercising choice sent their kids anywhere but this school and music, including woodwind, went through the floor.

So in attempt to garner students I have been taking in a variety of instruments to demonstrate to Year 7 classes. I am about half way through the series and will report next week when it's all over. To date the highlight has to be the student who was evicted from the room for failing to give an appropriate answer during the roll call. Presumably to maximise the attention he was getting he decided to sprint to the door, failing as he did so to notice the music stand I had set up. The stand went down with the child on top. Fortunately neither suffered any real damage.

In all this episode must have wasted ten or fifteen minutes of teaching time as we waited for a senior teacher to come and hear both sides of the story in the corridor outside.

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