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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

5 Ways to Advocate for Your Music Program

Whether we like it or not, advocating for our program is part of our reality as music teachers. While it can be exhausting constantly having to justify our existence, we have to be our own advocates if we want our students to have access to the best possible music education. Here are 5 concrete, practical ways you can advocate for your music program.

1. Get involved

One way to increase your visibility in the building and start to build positive relationships with staff and administrators is to get involved with building tasks, events, committees, and/or initiatives. I know, we're already so busy with our own stuff, who has time to do anything extra? And if the other staff are unsupportive and refuse to help out with music events, it can be a tough pill to swallow. I'm not saying we have to work a bunch of hours outside our contract or shoulder other people's responsibilities. But when there is a building staff meeting about test scores or building-wide behavior programs, get involved in the conversation. If you're asked to be on a committee, say yes when you can (within reason). Don't sit back and tune out because it's not directly related to music! If we want others to see us as equal colleagues, we have to be part of the team. Then once you've proven that you're here to be part of the building-wide initiatives, speak up for the same support for your music program. It will be much harder for staff and administrators to say no to helping you set up for your concert if you have been helping out where you can yourself, and there's nothing wrong with pointing that out. If you want to read some specific suggestions for getting involved straight from administrators, read this post:

2. Bring others in

Find other teachers, administrators, parents, or community members who are musicians, and find ways to get them involved in your program. If your superintendent can play guitar, have them come play with one of your ensembles at a concert. If the librarian plays drumset at their church, have them come in and demonstrate for your classes when they're free (or combine classes for part of the period so they don't miss planning time). If one of the parents of your students is a DJ for a local radio station, have them come in and talk to students about what their job is like, ask them if they would be willing to DJ a school event, or see if they can promote your program on air or even bring in a student group to perform on their show! There are lots of ways to get adults in the community involved without taking too much effort or time, and they not only offer extremely valuable experiences for your students but those adults will often become some of your greatest advocates!

3. Gently but firmly correct language

There's a lot of unconscious bias and micro-aggressions that come out in the way people speak, and most of the time they don't even realize the underlying message they're communicating when they do. When people talk about "non-classroom teachers" or "prep teachers", correct them. When someone makes a comment about music class being a fun "break" from academics, counter it. If you're doing so in a respectful way, and you're mindful of your own language, it's important to speak up for the ways that you and your program are being undermined by the language people use. Over time, as language shifts, hopefully the underlying attitudes will start to change as well. At the very least, the subtle messages that students get through these types of disrespectful comments or vocabulary will lessen. If you want to see some of the top comments I hear and how I correct them, read this post:

4. Share what you're doing

There are still so many people who assume music class today is the same as the one they experienced as a child 20 years ago. It's not! But without having any way of seeing it in action there is no way for people in the community to understand the scope of what we do. Find a way to regularly share what's happening in your classroom, whether it's through a social media page, a newsletter, email updates, or some other communication. You can also have regular opportunities for people to sit in on a music class through informances or open class times. To read more about the logistics of any of these options, read the posts below:

5. Music In Our Schools Month®

I get it. March is a busy time of year. You're already preparing for your spring concerts. But don't miss out on the chance to really push hard for the importance of music education through NAfME's Music In Our Schools Month®! This is a perfect excuse to be completely obnoxious about how awesome music is and how important it is as a school subject, and there are plenty of ways to do so that don't require too much extra effort or time on your part. I've been participating since my student teaching years and I've shared many of my ideas in previous posts- click below to read more ways to celebrate- you can still jump in this month or use these ideas to promote music education any time of year within your school community!

No matter what level of support we have for our music programs, we can all benefit from continuing to advocate for the benefits of our program. And while it can be exhausting and demoralizing to be constantly justifying our existence in an unsupportive environment, ultimately the benefactors of our advocacy are our students! I hope these ideas give you some fresh ideas and concrete action steps to help bolster support for music education in your community.

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