Why are some music teachers cruel
"You are not allowed to sing anyway"
“At the beginning of the exit restrictions, there is a small feeling of vacation. For a long time suddenly no violin students in the afternoon, no more appointments in the evenings and free weekends instead of concerts. At our grammar school, there is a requirement that primary subjects such as math and German should be sent to the students. I'm still grateful for the relief - homeschooling with two children takes up a lot more time than expected. The boss sends encouraging information emails about the current situation. With my mixed choir, I quickly switch to online rehearsals. The school choir is also happy about the welcome and exciting change of seeing each other and thus being able to keep the voice “warm”. The afternoons are slowly filling up again with the various instrumental lessons my children and my violin students take.
After three weeks without any changes to the school guidelines, astonishment arises and the realization that music is probably even less important at our school than expected: Colleagues who have allowed themselves to send our students home small musical tasks receive warnings due to them of parental complaints.
Other parents complain about the seemingly lazy minor subject teachers. The childless music colleagues are urged to lend a hand at the health department. In the meantime, only the school secretary forwards information from the Ministry of Culture; Mails to the executive suite with offers of help and questions remain completely unanswered. And our staff also openly express anger and envy that “the musicians do not take part in the work”. The music lessons are for the time being deleted as a matter of course in the timetable that was received at short notice. We music teachers do not receive any information on this. When I asked, an employee of the school management told me, 'You shouldn't sing anyway ...' Frustration spreads. The probing question arises as to which social and cultural future will be shaped by these school signals. Because our students are learning right now that music is obviously not considered important.
In the meantime (mid-May) our new everyday life is completely online, our two computers are running non-stop and a new kind of stress has set in: children in constant online school and instrumental lessons, my husband's video conferences, choir conducting via zoom. The prospect of normalcy seems like relaxation. The ministry has issued new guidelines for private media use. I realize that I am now making myself liable to prosecution: My school choir rehearsals can no longer take place like this for data protection reasons. Despite everything, I'm lucky: my part-time teacher salary continues to run normally. With a man who works in an industry badly affected by the Corona crisis, you learn to appreciate your employer anew in these times. Freelance musicians, on the other hand, are really desperate. But the neighbors would like to have street music for entertainment ... "
How do I tell the child if the child isn't sitting there?
“When it was foreseeable that the schools would be closed, we tried to reach our students digitally in a very short time. Mebis could only be used in high school because only the older students were able to use it. Lower and middle school had their approaches only theoretically. Usernames and passwords were issued quickly, but unfortunately there was no more time for familiarization. Office 365 was also available in principle, but could not be used due to concerns of the data protection officers. A system was developed to contact the children via the parents' portal via PDF documents.
That may work well in math, German and foreign languages. But how should a student receive music lessons with a PDF document? In addition, there was the collegial advice that musicians and artists now have a lot of time, while the “right” teachers have to work to the brink of exhaustion with schooling and parenting discussions. - Did I get that right?
What is usually shown in a rather subtle way when the only music lesson of the week takes place on Thursday in the 9th period, now broke ground with all cruelty. Core subjects are "systemically relevant", music, art and sport are dispensable! NO! So come up with the idea of tinkering with the camcorder and YouTube videos. Something that can be a profession in our society now had to be learned in a very short time: How do I tell the child if the child is not sitting there? A real challenge. However, it should be said that the positive feedback from students and their parents, who were extremely grateful for an artistic and creative lesson between the PDFs, were very motivating. Apparently music is systemically relevant! "
“Friday the 13th (March). Hustle and bustle. Once again I see the students in analog form. Since yesterday the information from the headmistress: 3 weeks of digital lessons until Easter. Mostly by email, as there is no digital platform for exchange apart from Mebis and Jitsi. And: only in main subjects. Music as a "minor subject" is silent with tasks. Patience! Despite my main subject priority, I keep in contact with the school community through daily music listening tips, initially written by myself, later the music course Q12 joins in, at least a creative input for the school community. Only: what will happen to my jazz bands? The school concert? Canceled. Rehearse? It does not work. Digital band rehearsals? Failure due to technology. Initial networking and online lessons, especially for the Q11 music course, via Zoom will soon no longer work under data protection law. Microsoft Teams? Only allowed in Corona times, should be installed after Easter, initially for Q11. Patience! The school management does its best!
After Easter: music lessons start. There is no digital platform for exchange. Mebis? To this day cumbersome, overloaded. Digital lessons for my 9 classes? Runs via mail (pdf, YouTube). Time-consuming search for stimulating apps / websites. I am always happy to receive support (technical / legal / content). One thing is clear: no more live performances in summer. Frustration. “Rehearsal work for the cat”? Idea: sound and video recordings of the ensembles, at least for the Q12 ... When? Where? How? … Wait ……… patience! "
Corona crisis also as a crisis in music lessons
“We music teachers are allowed to provide students with tasks for learning at home, but no mandatory processing should be required - even at a seminar school for music. Video conferences, expressly desired in examination subjects, should remain the exception in minor subjects. One part of the music department zealously and with great commitment, often together in specialist meetings, designs online tasks and materials for both class and elective lessons. The other part is already working at the strength limit in an examination subject due to the increased preparation effort of "homeschooling". Other colleagues, on the other hand, see the “cost-benefit calculation” in a clear imbalance to their disadvantage due to the can-do determination. Even allegations from parents make some music teachers doubt their right to exist: They and their children are sometimes already at the limit and now the non-advancing subject of music also requires the processing of tasks. This makes feedback from students all the more beautiful and motivating, in which they show through recordings, photos or a simple smiley that they thoroughly appreciate the subject of music.
Unfortunately, music does not find a permanent place in classroom teaching, which gradually returns after Easter. Examination subjects come first, of course, followed by the other advanced subjects and then - yes, then the planned number of hours is exhausted. Should a substitute arise, the musicians would be happy to have a say. That means preparing lesson units in advance and hope that these will be used ad hoc in face-to-face lessons at some point this school year. Oh yes, and the number of hours for elective lessons will probably be needed in the coming school year for remedial lessons in an examination subject ... "
How should it go on?
“The rehearsal ban for wind instruments was like a slap in the face. They are healthy, they have practiced, they want to play! And they had to deal with so much frustration (no spring concert, no high school concert, cancellation of the high school ball, all the uncertainty over weeks ...). That's why I wanted at least to make them feel like they were doing everything possible for them, even if my options are very limited. Our headmaster even phoned Munich, but the main issue was to postpone the exams as far back as possible (mostly to avoid complaints). However, this is only possible to a limited extent. The students absolutely want to have completed the practical test before the written Abitur in order to have a clear head. Understandable.
I also asked around with colleagues. Conclusion so far: Everyone has different, but also similar problems. A huge difference at the moment is likely to be that between a major and a minor. At one school, the head of department says "Please give online instrumental lessons", the next day the boss forbids this for data protection reasons.
Of course, all of this is extremely difficult, an unprecedented situation, new information every day, some news from yesterday are already outdated today. Otherwise: We have been provided with Office 365 free of charge at the school for almost two weeks and work with teams, which I don't think is bad at all. There is a virtual teachers' room in which there is a lively exchange. If you ask a question, you will quickly get an answer or a link to a corresponding tutorial.
The problem for us music schools: How should the instrumental lessons be continued? We haven't received any information on this up to now (beginning / middle of May), a little more guidelines or recommendations would do a lot better. When it became clear that there would be no lockdown for three weeks, I tried to motivate my instrumental student council to take video lessons.
We have a relatively "old" music college, some instrumental teachers have completely disappeared, some can only be reached by phone, and still others hold every hour via video conference. However, some students struggle with digital technology just as much as we do, in terms of equipment and know-how. The scissors diverge widely everywhere. "
Ensemble work only in exceptional cases in the future?
“Since we have an autumn seminar at the school, not everything is so problematic this school year. The oral exams can be held as planned, even if they coincide with the colloquium of the Abitur. The first or third teaching sample is held and assessed in the form of a teaching draft with an examination interview; a bizarre situation, which is not so serious in the third phase of training, since most of it has already happened. It looks more exciting for the spring seminars, as there have actually hardly been any attempts at teaching. What I find serious, however, is the impact on our social life. My music colleague wrote to me the other day: "Choir and big band are dead."
The current muddled situation as well as the possibility that a next generation of corona or flu viruses will be assessed similarly to the current one does not make it appear as an absurd scenario that ensemble work with choirs can only take place in exceptional cases in the future. This could be expanded at will to include sports, dance events and gastronomy. Not a nice idea. I would like to see a return to normality as soon as possible so that we don't forget our cultural coexistence. "
Compilation: Gabriele Puffer
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