Make going back to school this academic year a breeze!
The way you teach at your school(s) may well have changed significantly over the past few months. However, a lot of the same issues will arise as you get back to work at school. Here’s our list of tip & tricks for music teachers getting back into the swing of things this September.
Before we begin, it would be imprudent of us not to provide a small checklist of things you should definitely take care of before you commence teaching in any capacity:
1. Get DBS Checked
If you are going to be teaching in any capacity, then you will almost certainly require a criminal records check, known as a DBS. If you’re working in a school, then they will usually cover the cost of this. However, if you’re teaching privately, you can undertake this online by visiting their website and paying a small fee.
2. Get Insured
There are several different forms of insurance you’ll need as a teacher, as well as several factors that may influence your current insurance status. If you’re teaching from home, please ensure that you should check if using your home as a place of business effects your insurance. Similarly, if you are teaching peripatetically, or from a venue, you’ll almost certainly need Public Liability Insurance for any accidents that may happen outside of your home.
3. Get Registered as Self-Employed
Any money earned, whether paid in cash or not, is taxable. You should also be aware of the fact you may be able to claim back any expenses incurred whilst teaching. This could include a variety of things (books, equipment, travel), but should always be discussed with a tax advisor for clarity before making a claim.
Like any form of education, both music students and teachers can profit from some useful back-to-school preparation…
Checking your equipment, reviewing your learning environment, making sure you get enough rest, and refocusing your attitude can all work towards making sure you pick up right where you left off.
Before you start afresh this September, reflect on the last year and make sure you know exactly where you were the last time you saw each of your students. Use this as a jump off point upon their return to ask them to recall what they last learnt. This refocuses and motivates them, putting them in the right frame of mind before they play a single note.
Draw up a timetable for them to map out a practise schedule with clear objectives that you can both agree on. Structure is key! It’s important they get into a routine that enables them to see their own progress, which helps to boost confidence the more they improve. The more ownership they feel they have, the more invested they will be.
Engage with Parents
In order for everyone to feel involved in the process, pick a preferred way to include parents in your progress with their son or daughter. It’s tough for some parents – especially those that aren’t musical themselves – to feel that they can ask how their child is doing. If you put it in a language they can understand, the students own attitude will also vastly improve from their involvement. The skills learnt in music are transformational. Make sure they know it!
A lack of ability to focus, increased fatigue and ‘brain fog’, sleep issues and headaches are all intrinsically linked to reduced intake of water. Now, it’s not your responsibility to instil this, per se; but having water on hand is not only a thoughtful act, but it can also provide you with a reason to give students a moment to settle themselves if you think they could profit from a small break.
Respect Your Rest
A good night’s sleep is vital to our physical health and emotional well-being. That’s why the benefits of good sleep should never be underestimated. We appreciate how much effort and concentration is required to execute effective lessons on a regular basis, so make sure that you’re getting enough sleep as it’ll only make it harder!
Give yourself time in advance to feel fully prepared before each lesson begins. If you’re not ready to start straight away, how can you expect your student to be? You may want to bring something new into the learning environment, or start a brand-new topic that might take some thinking about. Mapping out your approach beforehand will ensure you’re happy with your content and delivery.
If possible, set a precedent for them to be turned off before you begin. They can be a useful learning tool, but they also mean that you may just give yourself something else to battle with for your students’ attention. If you’d like to use electronics in your lesson, make sure they’re your own in order to retain full control of the learning environment.
Despite your bottom-line being how well your students learn, it’s really important to build your own relationship with them so that they feel comfortable enough to concentrate. This could include something as small as a funny thing that happened to you recently, or how you overcame the same musical problem they’re currently struggling with.
Children – especially in their teenage years – can often feel undermined or misunderstood by adults, so be sure to ask them how they’re feeling and getting on generally at the time. It may take a while before they trust you enough to engage in this way, but a lot of young people will appreciate you taking an interest in them (even if they don’t show it at first!).
Finally, try to memorise their most important people, interests and passions. Their best friends, a favourite character from a books or film – obviously a favourite band/artist – but most importantly, their family members. These are the most influential and important things in their lives, so to have a respectful understanding of them is important.
Ask for Help
If you’re struggling with absolutely anything to do with your music teaching, there are a lot of support networks out there for you to contact. Here at RSL we are proud members and supporters of the Musicians’ Union, Incorporated Society of Musicians, Music Industries Association and Music Teachers Association who will all be more than willing to help any way they can, so don’t be shy!
Be a Role Model
Much like the ‘Wonderful Water’ entry (see above), this isn’t necessarily a necessity for your role; but if you want to be someone people are proud to endorse, then it’s a given that they’ll be doing so because of the respect you have for the opportunity each new student represents. Think about your manner, tone and overall respect for the human being who is trusting you to give them guidance on something they have a genuine enthusiasm for. Try to remember what it would’ve been like for you in their position and act accordingly.
You’re going to be great.
If you’d like to nominate yourself, or another music teacher, to feature in our Rockschool Stories series, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you started right away!
*Depending on your teaching scenario (private, peripatetic, in-school or out of a music hub), you may need to adapt your approach slightly, but in the main, each of these points should be applicable*