It’s been 7 months now since my last blog post. I took a bit of a break as I needed some time to really think about the myriad of things I have been reflecting on across the second half of this year and how best to try to put into words all the things I have learned, seen and been part of since I last sat down to write.
Since that last post there have been planes, trains, queues, more queues, hotels, trams, buses, taxis, currency I could’t quite get my head around and Uber is now my friend. Every trip has been filled with things that have made me think, reflect, adapt and refine and I have learned an incredible amount and met some inspirational people along the way.
I’ll start by saying I am so incredibly lucky. I am passionate about music, schools, teachers and students. At heart I will always be a teacher and it’s the same motivation that got me through 18 years in a secondary school classroom that has driven me through the last 7 months and brought me back to this page ready to fill it with some words that have been forming in my mind for a long time.
On my travels I’ve learned one important thing. Teachers are teachers, kids are kids and music is music. No matter where you are in the world, the challenges and rewards of what we do to make music education accessible, relevant and meaningful are the same. I have also learned that it’s amazing what it is possible to do with a class you have never met before armed only with a bag of chopsticks and some chairs!
The other thing that held me back from writing has been that I’ve found that sometimes words aren’t quite enough to bring to life the vibrancy of a school music department or what it’s like to lead workshops and training days.
How can I describe the buzz around working with teachers, hoping that one idea or experience will resonate enough to persuade a teacher to go back into school and try something new? Or that excitement you feel as an observer when a music class comes to life and you just feel a shift in something in a lesson that makes you feel grateful to have been there as it triggers the spark of an idea for something to try, think about, build on.
Then there are the passionate discussions with colleagues, new friends made, so much to talk about. The endless frustrations and blocks that seem to be increasing in music education and the lack of tangible solutions to make things easier but which it always helps to share and discuss with others in the same boat whether in the UK or overseas.
Of course there are always things that don’t work. A workshop that falls flat because you didn’t quite pitch it right or the tech fails that can destroy even the most well-planned presentation before it even begins.
In many ways it’s all been just how it was when I was teaching. A bit of luck, a lot of learning from experience, the ability to be flexible, finding the right balance between winging it and planning something in such detail it couldn’t possible go wrong right? Wrong. But always learning, adapting, reflecting and changing. The teacher in me will never let that go.
I am going to have a go in the next couple of months at finding some words to share some of what I have come to believe I’m right about and some of the many things I have been wrong about. But more likely I’ll end up realising I haven’t found many answers after all and that I’ll probably have to spend a whole lot more time in 2017 continuing to look for them.