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Low engagement - struggling!

Discussion in 'Music' started by kstring24, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. I started at my current school in September, a school where music was a non-starter. No clubs, hardly any teaching, kids subjected to supply teachers and worksheets. Apparently it was a struggle to even get them into lesson. I've come in with the job of 're-engaging' the pupils and getting them through BTEC Performing Arts (there is a drama teacher who is head of faculty). The school is very difficult, it has a big behaviour problem and is generally full of kids with very low aspirations and self-esteem.

    There is a show on tomorrow which is full of dancers and some singing, I worked with some of the singers but overall I've had very little input. I'm really down about the fact that I couldn't get any pupils to perform on an instrument other than singing and I feel sad that I don't have a bigger involvement. I'm hoping it'll be better next year, but I'm really struggling with engagement and I'm worried that it'll affect my performance management with the new Ofsted criteria.

    I've started a choir, which isn't being taken very seriously at the moment but kids are turning up which is a plus. I've started a keyboard club and I have a couple of keen Yr10 lads who want to start a band.

    In lesson pupils have learned a few songs on the keyboards (A-Team, Marry You, We Found Love, What Makes You Beautiful etc.) and I want to move them onto guitars and eventual band work, but I'm not sure how to approach it. The reason for this is because I still can't get classes to stay quiet and listen. I'm incredibly embarrassed about this, especially a whole term since starting. I've tried so hard, but I'm caught between helping these kids engage and enjoy the subject, but also know the boundaries and learn how to behave properly. I'm far more sensitive to comments than I used to be, and I'm gutted that some kids aren't enjoying the subject. I've got loads of ideas I could do, but I'm not confident that they'll be overly feasible with such disengaged pupils. I've no problem with leaving the uninterested kids so I'm not battling with them or nagging them, but then I'll land myself in trouble for not engaging the whole class and they'll start to think it's acceptable to opt out. Performances are a non-starter because I can't get classes to be quiet, and because of this their confidence isn't improving either.

    I've made so many mistakes this year, and as I'm fresh out of my NQT year I feel like a fish out of water. I ran a department in my NQT year but it was already in a successful department, now I have to turn a department around and I'm not so sure I'm cut out for it.

    I could do with some advice from others who have 'been there and done it'. I'm getting there with engaging kids, but I don't feel like I've done enough, especially with the lack of musical acts in this show tomorrow. I'm worried for what I'm going to do in class from January. I've been far to slack with practical lessons and fallen into the trap of letting kids do private practice (this is with KS4 classes, not with Yr7 & Yr8). Some are happy to get on, others do naff all. I know I need to keep things structured which I'll start to do, but we're going to become unstuck because I'm gonna struggle to teach the skills they need to progress further (like on guitars/drums etc.)

    I'm sorry if I seem overly negative, I feel like I've taken a few steps back recently. I was doing well with letting things wash over me, but now I can't stop thinking about everything I did wrong this term.

    I'm bloody tired. Roll on Friday.
     
  2. I started at my current school in September, a school where music was a non-starter. No clubs, hardly any teaching, kids subjected to supply teachers and worksheets. Apparently it was a struggle to even get them into lesson. I've come in with the job of 're-engaging' the pupils and getting them through BTEC Performing Arts (there is a drama teacher who is head of faculty). The school is very difficult, it has a big behaviour problem and is generally full of kids with very low aspirations and self-esteem.

    There is a show on tomorrow which is full of dancers and some singing, I worked with some of the singers but overall I've had very little input. I'm really down about the fact that I couldn't get any pupils to perform on an instrument other than singing and I feel sad that I don't have a bigger involvement. I'm hoping it'll be better next year, but I'm really struggling with engagement and I'm worried that it'll affect my performance management with the new Ofsted criteria.

    I've started a choir, which isn't being taken very seriously at the moment but kids are turning up which is a plus. I've started a keyboard club and I have a couple of keen Yr10 lads who want to start a band.

    In lesson pupils have learned a few songs on the keyboards (A-Team, Marry You, We Found Love, What Makes You Beautiful etc.) and I want to move them onto guitars and eventual band work, but I'm not sure how to approach it. The reason for this is because I still can't get classes to stay quiet and listen. I'm incredibly embarrassed about this, especially a whole term since starting. I've tried so hard, but I'm caught between helping these kids engage and enjoy the subject, but also know the boundaries and learn how to behave properly. I'm far more sensitive to comments than I used to be, and I'm gutted that some kids aren't enjoying the subject. I've got loads of ideas I could do, but I'm not confident that they'll be overly feasible with such disengaged pupils. I've no problem with leaving the uninterested kids so I'm not battling with them or nagging them, but then I'll land myself in trouble for not engaging the whole class and they'll start to think it's acceptable to opt out. Performances are a non-starter because I can't get classes to be quiet, and because of this their confidence isn't improving either.

    I've made so many mistakes this year, and as I'm fresh out of my NQT year I feel like a fish out of water. I ran a department in my NQT year but it was already in a successful department, now I have to turn a department around and I'm not so sure I'm cut out for it.

    I could do with some advice from others who have 'been there and done it'. I'm getting there with engaging kids, but I don't feel like I've done enough, especially with the lack of musical acts in this show tomorrow. I'm worried for what I'm going to do in class from January. I've been far to slack with practical lessons and fallen into the trap of letting kids do private practice (this is with KS4 classes, not with Yr7 & Yr8). Some are happy to get on, others do naff all. I know I need to keep things structured which I'll start to do, but we're going to become unstuck because I'm gonna struggle to teach the skills they need to progress further (like on guitars/drums etc.)

    I'm sorry if I seem overly negative, I feel like I've taken a few steps back recently. I was doing well with letting things wash over me, but now I can't stop thinking about everything I did wrong this term.

    I'm bloody tired. Roll on Friday.
     
  3. Rome was not built in a day. As an NQT I can imagine that you take observations and performance management seriously. But don't let it run your life or worry you over much. This school is lucky to have you, a reflective and committed musician. You simply can not fix all these problems at once and it sounds like behavior is a whole school issue, no t yours alone.

    Students are used to coming to music to either doss or be bored. That is a routine that is hard to shift. I would focus my energy on year 7 and on any student who plays an instrument or who has a good voice. I would also use lesson time to prepare performances. My carol service tonight used the whole of year 7, rehearsed in lesson time. Once they have done a performance some may feel enthused.

    What about a lunch time concert for the best performances of the term - only as to be 20 minutes to start with.

    You will need to build up acadre of musicians that will grow year after year. Once they have performed a few times other students will start to respond positively most students are impressed when someone can play an instrument or sing really well.

    You have made a start but you arereallylookimng at two to three years to fix these issues. Any manager who expects instant change does not know kids or music. Just nod politely at what they tell you and then get on with it in a way that will actually bare fruit.
     
  4. Rockmeamadeus' advice is spot on. You won't fix it all in one term, you will be looking at a good 2-3 years to break the mould. I was in similar position when I took over a dept as HOD two years ago and now my dept is starting to flourish. My first group of year 7's did their own concert and they are really engaged. Musical futures would be a good base for you I think. The workshopping should get them engaged. Try and get out and visit other schools too to see what they are doing. Don't feel disheartened at this point, it will be a slog but you will see the fruits of your labour soon. Keep with it, demand a standard and focus on year 7&8.
     
  5. spanboy

    spanboy Occasional commenter

    The school should be thrilled they've finally got someone like you who is enthusiastic and is a regular member of staff, not supply etc. My first school was like yours and I was on my own there as you are at yours. If you have good resources then I agree with the musical futures route, providing you lay it on the line re: looking after the stuff!
    I was given a good bit of advice by my NQT leader - he said that until you've gone full cycle from teaching year 7 to 11, you'll never be fully 'accepted' by the kids, because there'll always be a year group to whom you were a 'new' teacher. Sure enough he was right, and year by year it did get easier - they become increasingly aware that you're not to be messed with, unlike supply.
    So, hang in there if you can!
    Another thought: do you have any contact/influence with your feeder primaries? Maybe try and push for more kids starting instrument lessons in KS2 so that it has a knock-on effect as they come to you in year 7. I know this is easier said than done but, if possible, might be worth a try?
    Hope things look up for you soon!
     
  6. Hi
    I can echo the above input. I am also a music teacher, but in a SEN school for learning and behaviour difficulties and have managed to get something going over the last 3 years or so. We have a policy that ALL the kids learn some instrument on school entry.
    Guitars are so cheap nowadays that you can buy loads. Teach them 'Smoke on the Water' = Middle Two Strings - (open) (fret 3) (fret5), - (open) (fret 3) (fret 6) (fret 5)..... and get rocking in minutes!! You can also pick up drums cheap too. See http://thomann.de who are really resonably priced and deliver to the UK from Germany.
    Would be glad to liase, if you like. You can get my mail via my personal little website http://manxman.ch/moodle2
    Hope that helps. It's hard work but a great feeling once you get it going.
    Regards
     
  7. dropje

    dropje New commenter

    totally agree with the above. Long term plan is needed. Don't be disheartened. even in 'good' schools it takes more than a term to establish yourself. Maintain your enthusiasm for the subject, keep your standards and expectations high and get support form your line manager. Don't worry about the concert. Observe. Make mental notes and build on it.
     

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