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  • Writer's pictureJanis Aston

Who's Driving Your Car?

Are you driving your car? Or are any of these at the wheel?

  • Admin? Has your admin created a schedule that makes it impossible for you to provide a solid, sequentially-based curriculum for your students? Does the schedule reflect inequitable amounts of time for students? Are you required to participate in or be in charge of activities that not only do not enhance your program but actually take your time away from your teaching goals? Is there a lack of respect for the related arts as an important part of each child's education?

  • Resources? Do you have so many resources and materials, like ukuleles, guitars, recorders, online curriculum, that you're not sure how to "work it all in"? And you end up just teaching one thing, move to the next, without any long-range plan or purpose? Or do you feel you do not have any of the resources you need to provide a quality program for your students?

  • Programs/Performances? Are principal-required programs driving your car? Are you required to have more than 3 programs each year? Maybe one per grade level? And are you rehearsing during instructional time?

  • Standards? Are you fortunate enough that your admin has allowed you to determine your curriculum and it is based on the standards? Are you providing your students with sequentially-based lessons filled with activities that support your long-term goals and objectives?

  • COVID-19? I wrote this blog in 2018. Long before 2020, the disastrous year of the Pandemic. I have added this bullet because I believe that the circumstances are driving everyone's cars right now and we are headed for a huge traffic jam!! I believe a solid mission statement will still hold true no matter what!

When your mission is driving your car, you and your students will succeed!

Your Mission Statement

Create a mission statement. Take it to your principal and discuss with him/her what you feel your mission is to your students. Ask for input and be open for suggestions. Re-write, using these suggestions, and be sure to obtain written approval.

Post your mission statement in several prominent places—beside your door in the hallway, at the front of you room, etc. Whenever anything comes up that would cause you to deviate from your mission, remind the person of your mission and say you would love to be able to do or incorporate whatever has been suggested but you just cannot justify including something in your lessons that would eliminate your standards-based activities.

My mission statement—

My mission is to provide my students with a standards-based, sequential curriculum that will encourage their love and appreciation for music from all cultures and instill a desire to become lifelong learners of music.

I protected this mission and fought to maintain it in my classroom—from announcements and phone calls that interrupted instruction to being responsible for the related arts schedules. I had six principal changes at the same school during my 30 years and by approaching them with respect and as one professional to another, I was able to maintain my mission.

Now may not be the best time to push back, but instead, gently and persistently, guide those making the decisions into that will impact students for the rest of their lives.

Yes, there was occasional push-back and criticism from other teachers but success is all in the approach and respect for colleagues. I helped everyone whenever I could. I was a team player. I had to bite my tongue many times when explaining for the millionth time, that "No, I cannot teach your class a new song today because I already have a full lesson prepared that contains important learning activities for the students. Next time, if you will let me know a few weeks in advance, I'll be glad to check the song/activity to see if it meets our standards for music class and then work it into my plans."

We learn from each other. Most teachers and principals are receptive to this kind of approach. I was fortunate to be able to work with the ones who were.

I challenge you to write your mission NOW! Check to see if your district has an overall mission statement. Then see if there is one for music. Be proactive. Help create one if there is not. But above all, be sure you have one for your classroom. And then base everything you do on that statement.

If you already have a mission statement, please share it here to help others as they are developing theirs.


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