Top Ten Tips for surviving a year of teaching music


Every month in 2018 we’re celebrating our 10th birthday by publishing top ten tips for teachers! This month’s – very much tongue-in-cheek – tips are written by Dr Elizabeth Stafford. We hope they make you smile!

  1. Set your ground rules early – don’t touch those instruments when I’m speaking, or else!
  2. Appoint some music monitors – you know the type, those keen beans who love to hang out in the music department at lunchtime. Guess what, they will love running errands too. Although maybe stop short of sending them out for Starbucks…
  3. Make friends with the PE teacher – you want them as your ally not your nemesis. Instead of ‘I can’t come to orchestra, I have football practice,’ try, ‘Mrs Music and Mr PE excused me from my maths homework as I have FAR TOO MANY important extra curricular responsibilities.’
  4. Don’t reinvent all of the wheels – unless whatever you did last year resulted in criminal charges, you’re probably doing ok. Pick one or two things about your teaching to change or develop, but don’t feel the need to start from scratch again – remember, even if you are bored to tears by the same old topics and repertoire, this is the first time your pupils have encountered them so they’ll be excited even if you aren’t!
  5. Stock up your repair kit. In my first lesson this year, ten, yes TEN instruments fell apart within the first 15 minutes. You need glue, packing tape, elastic bands, paperclips, a screwdriver, and while you’re there why not stock up on random items such as rosin and valve oil too.
  6. Sharpen, like, 100 pencils – or get your music monitors to do it (see point 2 above)
  7. Practise saying NO early – ‘No I can’t teach the whole school a 3 part harmony song for Harvest Assembly tomorrow!’ You’ll thank me when it gets to Christmas and everyone knows to just let you do your own thing…
  8. Commandeer an iPad and fill it with videos of your classes as assessment evidence – then when the SLT ask for assessment data, suggest they watch 300 hours of beginner recorder lessons…
  9. Never, EVER, let a pupil open their own music stand. You know how this is going to end (see point 5 above). Only you or the fully trained music monitors (see point 2 above) must touch those musical Rubik’s Cubes.
  10. Take pleasure in the small things – that pupil who finally gets the notes in the right order, the band who pull together to give a great rendition of their favourite song, the choir that can get to the end of a performance without someone crying, the bottle of single malt that you swig directly out of as soon as the bell goes for half term. It’s the little things in life that keep you going….

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