CME Podcast Read the Episode 001

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 001 of the The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Episode 001 Transcript

Introduction

Excited to be here on my first podcast. Now, what should this be about? It was a bit of a no brainer, really. I think this first podcast needs to be about how important music teachers are, how important you are. I think I need to tell you that you are important. Why do we need to hear that we’re important? Well, I think that’s because in our job, it’s really easy to feel undervalued. Why is it that way? My heaven’s look at what we do. We sing songs, we play games, we just have the best time. So why is it that often we are not seen as valued? I think there are several reasons for this.

Why Do We Feel Undervalued?

The Three R’s

For start, we’re not teaching one of the basics. One of the three R’s, reading, writing and rithmetic. We’re not teaching what’s “really important”. I’m certainly not saying that’s my view, because it’s obviously not or I wouldn’t be in this job, but it is the view of many. What we do is not the basics, it’s not fundamental. It’s not important to our lives. That’s a bit of a common perception that we’re up against in our job.

The Importance of Labels

Another thing when we’re working in schools is that we’re just often viewed as the ‘baby sitter’, the time to give the “real” teachers a break. Some of our timetables even have on the top ‘non-contact time’ or ‘relief time’ or something like that. We’re not even labelled as music teachers, we are now ‘timetable’. Music is usually the last curriculum area to be reviewed and refreshed, or at least in my experience it is.

By the time our new curriculum documents are written, trialed and implemented and ready to go, we go, ‘uh oh, here comes another new broom in our system district curriculum’. New broom warning, they’re going to sweep things clean and they’re going to start again and we have only just begun to implement our new documents that have been worked on for so long, for so many years, and we’ve had the shortest time frame out of all of the curriculum areas to actually get it happening.

Now, this might not be your experience, but it certainly is mine. I was even fortunate enough to be the manager of a curriculum writing team. We worked on this new curriculum for Queensland for 7 years, trialed and got amazing people to help write things, and then we only just got them happening and new “broom time” so all of that work was lost. So that’s my experience anyway because we’re the last ones to be reviewed we’re out first. Bottom of the pile, we are and we so shouldn’t be, I think that I’m probably preaching to the converted.

Fear

The other reason that I think we’re not valued is that sometimes music and music education comes with fear. I think that sometimes what’s not understood can be feared. Other teachers, administrators, and decision-makers can feel moved to erode our area because of their fear. It might be a little bit of a sweeping generalization, but I do think it’s there.

There are some people that are genuinely afraid of what we do because they don’t understand it. It’s a whole symbol system that is gobbledygook to them. They don’t understand why it’s important that our children feel safe to have a turn and sing and take risks and create and innovate, they don’t see that importance. Therefore there’s a fair bit of fear. They’re just some of the reasons that I think we are sometimes not valued in our job.

You Are Important!

Now, it sounds to me that I’ve sort of broken one of my rules. When I’m teaching music, I start and end with music and joy and what have I done? I have started this podcast on a downer, which I certainly didn’t mean to do, sorry about that. You are absolutely valuable just because you’re here, because you were born, you’re worthwhile but we won’t go into that little sidetrack.

What you do is vital, it is valuable, and it is essential. Children need what you do. I think every single person listening to this knows that the children that you educate need you. They deserve you. They value you. What you do is irreplaceable so in this next section, I’m going to summarize a few things, a few reasons why I believe what you do is invaluable.

I’d actually like to start this list by saying it’s by no means exhaustive. I wanted this to be really complete, beautiful, and thorough. The more I work on it, the more work I realize there is to do so I’ve just had to call time so that I can get this episode done. Alright.

Cognitive Advantages

Why are you valuable? Let’s start with some cognitive advantages for our students. Well, we know now that there’s so much research that’s available proving the cognitive benefits for our students. There’s neuroscientific research demonstrating that music education has a positive effect on brain development. It’s a fact now, so we really can’t argue against that one. It increases our verbal, reading, and executive function, particularly in really young students. It helps enhance our memory, and our concentration, and extends our attention span. Music Education enhances observation and listening skills. So they are developed as information processed from auditory-visual and kinesthetic perception.

We go through all of these different ways and modes of learning and develop these skills of observation and listening. It also helps with group and individual decision making problem-solving and even hypothesizing. There are so many cognitive benefits. Music does make you smarter. You can look into any of these plus more and go into really specific details but I think what we need to know for now is that it just improves students’ cognition and increases the modernization of the neural pathways in young children. It’s handy to have a bit of research up our sleeves to use when discussing these things. But for now, all we need to know is it does make you smarter, it helps our students’ brains.

Social-Emotional Benefits

One of the reasons I am in this job is the social, emotional, and psychological benefits. As I’ve gone through my career, I know it’s always been important, but it seems to me to be coming even more important. There’s more emphasis placed on data assessment, reporting, testing, and we just seem to be swinging away from creative experiences. Experiences that are there for our well-being and for making well-rounded little people. I just more than ever social, emotional, and psychological benefits are at the forefront. I think we are necessary so I’ll go through a bit of a list I made and like I said, I’m sure there are heaps more.

There’s that shared experience of singing together, it creates social bonding. Therefore, everyone feels like they belong. They are sort of an acceptance because you’re part of that group. I know personally, I love singing in a choir, not that I actually do it at the moment because I’m short on time, but I love being in the choir because I am much better in a choir than I am by myself. I’m not that great as a solo singer, but when I’m singing with the choir, gee, we sound good. I just love that feeling of belonging and being part of the group and being part of something better than just me by myself.

Healthy Risk-Taking

Part of that benefit is also working effectively as part of that group, learning to work well with a partner. Peer acceptance, allowing risk taking because every time we have someone sing by themselves in a game or improvise a phrase, we’re allowing them to take those risks and we’re teaching the students to respect that risk taking. Everyone is accepted and everyone is allowed to have a go, which is, I think, a bit unique in music and the arts. The informal atmosphere of games is a unique environment where the teacher is one of the group, you can be part of that belonging and fun, even using the students names in songs and games has huge wellbeing benefits.

There may be some students in your class that the only time they hear their name in a positive context is when they’re playing their games with you. Maybe they only hear their name in a context of being yelled at or in anger or even in violence. If we can sing their name and look into their eyes, it can just be transformative for some students. We choose partners and learn to choose partners respectfully making circles and holding hands. We participate, we share, we learn to take turns.

This is amazing for social, emotional and psychological development. We have to learn to sometimes be out and it’s all right to be out. It is a game and sometimes we miss out. There may only be four students that have turns at the xylophone today, and so you miss out today. You know what? That’s okay. We have to learn to do that, to put up with that.

All right. We have the advantage of it being fun and we shouldn’t overlook that. It is fun. It’s not just fun, but it is fun. We have success and our students can feel successful. That’s the sequential nature of our programs, building in success for all self-worth and praise as everybody’s contribution is valued in music. They can feel secure and safe when they’re taking risks. When they’re creating, they develop a positive self-concept of themselves through their songs, games, compositions, and all of the things that you do with them. They are encouraged as creating and engaging individuals in music activities in your classroom.

Health Benefits

Singing releases endorphins, it’s a natural antidepressant and lower stress levels. It even increases alertness as it increases our blood flow so that’s a little bit of a feel good sort of thing for you. I believe it develops empathy. I think music education is one of the powers of music education, maybe it’s a secret power of music education. It develops empathy because there is this emotional element of music. It’s essential, an essential emotional element of music. It can lead to reflective, thoughtful and empathetic listeners and performers. I don’t really believe that you can make music with children or with anyone really without tapping into some sort of emotional depths.

Positive Touch

Let’s move on to physical advantages of our music education programs. I’d like to start with positive touch. There are some students that you will teach that have not had their hand held or been touched in a positive way throughout their day and that feeling of being in a circle holding hands, it’s just amazing. Michelangelo said, “To touch can be to give life.” It’s important.

You need to connect with people on a basic physical level, and students need to feel this as well, some more than others. It can help them feel safe, secure, and valued. Some research suggests that up to one in four of our students are affected by trauma, and this is often not obvious from the outside. Allowing our programs to include positive touch, hand clapping games, holding hands in circles, and linking arms with a partner. All of these things are so important.

Fine & Gross Motor Development

Now, fine and gross motor development. We know that from finger plays in prep up to sets dancing in upper primary, that fine and gross motor development in our music classes happens all the time playing instruments holding the beaters. That’s a bit of an easy one, really, that motor development and general coordination is developed.

We have lots of cross body and crossing the midline type activities, which we know is really important to our physical development. Posture is improved, especially with proper playing techniques and correct singing techniques. Singing is great for your lungs and your core development. Some evidence even suggests that it strengthens your immune system to be singing and particularly to be singing in a group, in a very positive way. There’s even evidence that there’s protection against age related decline as we develop musically.

Oh my goodness, when you look at those things, which by no means is this list exhaustive, this is why you’re valuable. This is what you do for students. This is amazing. You have to know that what you do is important and you have to know that you are awesome. I guess it’s our job to really help lead people to understand how important your work is.

The Importance of Networking & Community

Digital Networking

This brings me to the final section on this podcast about you being incredibly valuable and important. I think what we need to do is finish off with ways to help you keep in mind how valuable you are, to remind you of your value and to support you in the way you work. There’s a few things you can do. Many of you are no doubt doing these already. Networking, I would be absolutely nowhere without my support network, my colleagues. I rely on them whether it’s through Facebook, email, at school, going to pds, being on committees.

My network of music education people are just the most valuable thing for me in my professional life. Get on to that networking, create your networks, nurture your networks, they’re going to be invaluable when you need them. Specifically, we could look at Facebook groups, that’s where I love hanging out most. I’m trying to get better at the other socials, but Facebook is where I tend to hang out.

I’ve got the Facebook community and that’s a closed group that I have, so I have to say it, I have complete control over this group so I can make sure that it stays positive and supportive. I can encourage the sharing and generous nature that I think is really there in all music teachers. So pop into some of your favorite Facebook groups. If they’re a bit toxic, just get out, just go to the good ones.

“Old-Fashioned” Networking

Now don’t forget, in this age of technology, just actually going to visit someone, picking up the telephone, or arranging to go to see a colleague at a school down the road. Get your principals to talk and go spend some time with them because we need to keep this personal connection happening. We need it so don’t forget personally reaching out not just the huge Facebook groups. Attend workshops, oh my heavens, my favorite part of my 40 years as a music educator is attending and taking workshops.

That interaction and the way that we can buoy each other up. Understanding our jobs, our barriers, and our joys so go to workshops. I realize we’re in a time when face to face is a bit of an issue because this is coming to you in early 2022 where we’re still in the COVID pandemic, but workshops, please make sure you do those.

Join a committee. For me, I’m a kodi inspired teacher so I’m on the Queensland Kodi Committee and I just love being with my like minded tribe. That might not be for you, you may be off inspired or dull crows or but find somebody that shares your underlying philosophy and passion and join a committee. Do some voluntary stuff and get some things happening to support other people. One of the greatest ways to have support yourself is to provide support for others, give them a hand. It’s amazing the good that that will do for you so join a committee to help others out.

Here’s a Thought

Here’s another little one. It’s sort of a bit of a plug, but it’s no monetary advantage for me. I’d like you to sign up for something called “Here’s a Thought”. I’ll put the link in the show notes for you but basically, Here’s a Thought is a daily message of encouragement, support, and/or inspiration. It’s short and you will get one every day for a year unless you unsubscribe, which of course, you’re free to do. I wrote these and I was a little bit inspired, actually, I was a lot inspired. I went back and forth, should I do this?, should I not? and then I said “well, I’m going to”.

It took me quite a long time to write my 365 thoughts from a music educator to a music educator but I’ve got a couple hundred people receiving them now and I’m getting really good feedback. I actually really like getting it myself, I like to see, Oh, what is ‘passed’ Debbie, telling ‘today’, Debbie? What message does she have for me? I enjoy them. They’re absolutely free and like I said, there’s always the unsubscribe button so sign up for Here’s a Thought if you wish. That will give you a little reminder every day that what you do is super important.

Thanks for listening to the Crescendo Music Education podcast. I’d like to leave you with a little saying that’s become my mantra. It took me a while to work it out so that I really liked the way the words flowed so I would like to think that it’s a Debbie original but you know, I guess there’s nothing original in this world. It goes like this. I hope it resonates for you, as it does for me. “All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you.” Until next time, bye.

A Final Giggle

As we know, laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life. ‘You know, the other day, I thought I would go and buy myself a pair of camouflage pants and I just couldn’t find any.'(ha!)

Sign-Off

This podcast was brought to you by Crescendo Music Education. Connecting, supporting and inspiring music educators. In the show notes, you’ll find links to Crescendos social media platforms. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo Community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member. For a low annual fee you can access hundreds of files, worksheets, printables, workbooks, repeat workshops, webinars, and receive great discounts on events. Come and connect with me, Debbie. Okay, see you in the socials.


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