Getting Started in Schools
By Louise Campbell
Schools are great places to make music. If you are, as I am, a guest in the school system, trust built over time is rewarded again and again with creativity and excitement of students and teachers.
Every school, principal, teacher and student is part of a larger educational structure. Understanding your place in this structure determines a project’s success, longevity, and desire of principals and teachers to collaborate in the future.
Ultimately, every project in schools is about the students. How can you best support student creativity and learning through music and sound?
- Know the curriculum. The more your projects respond to curriculum, the more positive responses you will have. Consult your province/territory’s curriculum for educational frameworks in the arts, technology and cross-curricular competencies.
- Understand the annual cycle, including exams, holidays and budget allocation.
- Build relationships with allies including teachers, principals, parents, school board arts consultants and arms-length educational associations.
- Treat teachers with respect. Look for ways to build on what teachers already do and know about art and their students.
- Keep communication efficient and to-the-point.
Project development: Questions to discuss:
- What are teachers’ motivations for inviting you into their classroom? Are there specific goals or learning outcomes they want addressed?
- How are teachers involved in-class during the project? Involvement ranges from observation to team-teaching.
- How much experience do students have in music-making and the approach you are offering?
- What grades are involved? How many students are in each class?
- What is the class schedule? How many times will you see each class?
- What equipment is available in the classroom? (i.e. Orff instruments, band instruments, digital devices, internet connection and speed etc.)
N.B. Guests are frequently brought in to fulfill curriculum requirements for tech literacy. Discuss in advance whether to bring your own equipment (and leave with it at the end of the project) or use school equipment.
Tips for in-class time
- Children and teens have a lifetime of experience. Students may trust you quickly, or not, for various reasons. Should anything come up that concerns you, speak with the teacher, principal and school councillor to ensure the student has appropriate support.
- Be flexible: what works with one class may not work for another. Be ready to adapt.
- ALWAYS respect class schedule. Finishing late has ramifications throughout the school, from delaying classes to causing a child to miss a meal or the bus home. I personally wrap up 5 minutes before the bell, leaving time for questions, comments and a calm transition to the next activity.
- Respect safety procedures:
- Check in and out of school with the secretary
- Ensure there is always school supervision while you are working with students
- Use adult facilities during out-of-class time (i.e. staff lounge and bathrooms)
- Avoid common allergens for lunch (e.g. no peanut butter or fish)
- See the staff room for posters regarding school-specific Health and Safety procedures, on-staff first responders and important phone numbers