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How to explain to parents exams are not the syllabus


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#16 Iulia

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 09:41

 

Sorry for hijacking the OP's thread a tad.  Bowing out gracefully now!

Bx

 

Not hijacking at all BP. I. completely agree. 


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#17 Iulia

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 09:56

If only they all played as many as 24 pieces! 

 

I have a student that also learns an orchestral instrument at school. He was due to sit G2 last summer but it was cancelled, and they began the G3 pieces. He has been doing them ever since. Parent tells me he wants to quit. Poor kid who can blame him?

I don't blame the teachers the school wants exam passes and they have to earn a living. But the system is indeed broken. 


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#18 ViolinsAreForLife

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 10:58

I have stopped putting students forward for exams.  I enjoy my teaching SO much more....no more pressure to 'teach to the test'.....Result = happy teacher, happy students and, yes, HAPPY parents.  Any parent making an enquiry about tuition that mentions 'grades', 'exams' or 'scholarships' gets the 'I'm fully booked' response.  I just don't need this {insert word of your choice} anymore; I just want students of all ages to delight in creating wonderful music - be that on 3 notes or 3,333 -  to take real pride in their achievements and be able to express themselves in a unique way.

C is right.  Our mainstream education system is broken.  Teachers are indeed downtrodden but, sadly, many of them lack the ability to problem solve or think creatively as they're under so much pressure just to tick the boxes within an unrealistic timeframe.  I'm saddened by a lot of posting on FaceBook by these people :( :( :( Wake up teachers.....search your hearts, start SEEING the flaws and begin to fight back.

Sorry for hijacking the OP's thread a tad.  Bowing out gracefully now!

Bx

 

I agree with all of it!

 

I have never been an exam-mad teacher... I am actually from Italy, where people doing music 'grades' have to pass through the conservatoire system, which is a lot more strict and this means that people who complete an instrumental 'graded' system are actually more likely to do so because they intend to pursue a career in music. If people want to play an instrument just for fun, why would you want to mix them with a conservatoire-based approach? The result is the graded exams in the UK, where essentially they are (in my view) devalued to the point that people who intend to take music as a career option do not have a separate set of certification that sets a 'gold standard'... They take these graded exams like anyone but then have to do a lot more to demonstrate that they are a cut above the rest... It is like university degrees, where if you want to be a cut above the rest now it is no longer sufficient to gain an undergraduate degree: you have to then have a Master's degree and maybe also a PhD.

 

This all sounds terribly snobbish, I know... but the point is that is speaks to a devaluing of music education where those can pay buy their children certification status by the bucket-load, and those who cannot just resign themselves to their kids only have some music lessons at primary school and nothing (or very little) thereafter. As I was discussing with @elemimele on another thread, we need to overhaul this socially dysfunctional idea of music as a privately-run, class-based privilege and democratise it, give it social value, and make it relevant generationally - much like 'folk' music still is in parts of the world. When you see musical playing handed down at the grandparents' knees in societies, you know that it has a future... when you see it handed to private teachers alone in a room, you know it is bound to be starved. There are excellent private teachers who do their best to get away from the exam-box-ticking mill and give added value to pupils: these are the teachers who infuse a love for MUSIC, who inspire students, who get several of their students and families together, etc. But these teachers are fighting a system that devalues public and community music-making/learning, and in a way (myself included) are part of the problem

 

I still do the odd exam but generally I talk people out of them and parents/adult learners have no issue with  this. Some of my teaching peers are not so lucky and are pressurised by pushy parents (they are not evil, they are just responding themselves to peer pressure) to do unreasonable things in the pursuit of grade-collecting. It has to STOP. 

 

As @bagpuss said: WAKE UP! You will lose those students eventually as they will become bored of the exam mill... But of course if the choice is between clients and no clients - and having no income - then nobody can tell you that you should have no clients. Newer teachers are more vulnerable and may struggle, financially and for lack of confidence, to say 'no'. Hopefully as money becomes less of an issue down the line, and confidence builds up, every teacher can be more decisive in saying 'no' to unreasonable demands.

 

There, I said it all!

 

:)))))


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#19 elemimele

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 16:56

Good post, ViolinsAreForLife.

 

A few things over this thread really leap out at me, particularly the strength of feeling. Iulia also commented that parents want to give their kids a chance to try everything. This is true, and bad not just because you end up with kids rushing from one activity to another and never getting a chance to do any of them properly. 

 

It's also bad because kids actually need to feel that their special activities are special. They get satisfaction out of being able to do something that everyone else isn't doing. And it also teaches self-confidence: it is good to be able to look at someone who plays excellent tennis and not feel inferior, instead just to think 'great, she loves her tennis, I love my flute'. It's good to be able to look at something you cannot do, or don't particularly want to do, and realise that it honestly doesn't matter. 

 

If everyone tries to do everything, because everyone else is doing everything, no one really feels it's theirs, and all these activities just degenerate into hurdles and rites-of-passage. Also, every kid ends up getting measured against all the others, where it would be great if kids could sometimes learn to measure their achievements against themselves. 

 

But happy things happen in school music too. It's not totally dead, though sometimes it surprises us parents when it crops up. I remember quite a while back coming home from school with kid and commenting on a particular street musician we passed. This led to a brief exchange on musical taste, and kid declared that he didn't like Beethoven. I nearly fell off my bike because kid followed up with a justification for his viewpoint that made it quite clear he knew who Beethoven was, and the sort of music he wrote, and he also told me what he did like. So, without me even noticing, some classroom music teacher has managed to expose my kid successfully to a range of music and give him a chance to develop his tastes. I'm also vaguely aware that they've been getting tunes out of keyboards and learning some basic notation, something he's steadfastly refused to look at with me. Parents are not Teachers, and Home is not School. I'm hoping one day I get a chance to meet this teacher and tell them they're a hero.

Incidentally, last Christmas, this was the school where every morning a bunch of girls were outside the gate in Santa hats singing carols (kid: 'the girls have made a Christmas club. Yuck!'), but also the same school where I saw one of the staff dealing with a huge and hairy teenager in full hormone-mode, completely non-verbal smoking as rebelliously as he could; teacher managed to get the cigarette out of his mouth and the kid into school - another hero of the teaching profession who deserves a pay rise in my view. It is a school with very mixed intake, and of necessity strong special needs provision. I can't judge them on music, but I do know that in my own field, without being even remotely pushy, they've produced one of the brightest students I've come across as a work-experience visitor. And that's it, really: if you push kids all the time, they lose the ability to motivate themselves. They end up exhausted and stressed. I'd like to see an education system with a better balance of ensuring kids do get what they absolutely need to learn, but also have space to develop their own interests, and become themselves; space to find their own motivation. Opportunities, balanced with space to breathe.

 

It is more important that a kid gets a chance to decide he doesn't like Beethoven than that he passes grade 8 oboe in time to get into medical school.


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#20 Iulia

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 17:37

Very good points Elemimele.

I'd always thought about it in terms of so many activities they can't possibly get anywhere with any of them, but actually you are right, it also means none of them are particularly 'special'.

I used to look forward to the night I had Brownies for example. But if they have three activities after school every day of the week and two on Saturday they are too distracted to look forward to any.

And though we all probably hate the 'too busy to practise' line I genuinely wonder with some of the kids when they WOULD have time. I dunno when they have time to do their homework either ...


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#21 maggiemay

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 17:59

Some excellent posts here - much agreement. 

And if a child is ferried from one activity to another, back to back - doesn’t it make it feel more like the way school is timetabled, and less like something they’ve actually chosen to do ? 


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#22 Cyrilla

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Posted 24 May 2021 - 22:49

And yes, I think it is a much wider issue than just music. Children do nothing but tests and exams at school. Frankly, I think it is a miracle they have time to actually learn anything. It begins at birth, when you get a red book to measure if they are doing everything they should. My health visitor kept telling me my children were backwards as they all moved late ( first rolled over at 11 months late). None of them will ever win the Olympics, but they can all walk just fine. I know it helps to pick up any problems early, but there really needs to be a better system, especially as so many problems are not picked up anyway. Perhaps if we just spent time with children and actually listened to them instead....

 

^^THIS^^

 

Not all children learn to walk at the same age.  Or talk.  Or be potty-trained.   That's because...hang on, now *scratches head*...oh, YES!  It's because WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT!!!   Fancy that.   Yet children are constantly assessed as being 'above age-related expectations'/'at age-related expectations'/'working towards age-related expectations'.

 

Fine for the academic child who achieves the first category all the time.   Except that it's not fine.   Because they too are always told to achieve the next 'target'.   What is this?  Pistol practice??   (And, as an aside - just because you are 'good at' something doesn't necessarily mean that it's what floats your boat.  Viz the wonderful story of the academic child who was pushed into an Oxbridge law degree and who became a 'successful' lawyer, but who wasn't happy.  He is now a human cannonball in his own circus and is BLISSFULLY happy.)

 

Back on-track for the thread - I have taught SO many adults with Grade 8, with music degrees, with diplomas - who have the most enormous gaps in their basic musicianship.   

 

If you are reasonably intelligent, reasonably well-co-ordinated and you work hard, you can achieve Grade 8 without REALLY understanding what you're doing.

 

Bagpuss is right.   More and more teachers are realising, as she has, what a relief it can be to jump off the exam treadmill.

 

:)


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#23 Hedgehog

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Posted 25 May 2021 - 07:33

I live in an area where exams are Very Important. However, I've also had the bonus of teaching some young people whose parents haven't been so mad-keen on exams, and they've left me as Y13s going to uni playing piano at whatever level they're at, but enjoying it and feeling happy that they can tackle anything they'd like to play (within reason).  This is what I aim for with as many pupils as possible.

Many good comments above.  But I also fear for the youngsters today - there's no opportunity to be bored because they've always got social media of some kind available on the end of their phone or tablet.  While it's absolutely fine to play some of these games, I think that they can be a bad influence and youngsters are missing out on other aspects of life which may be (almost certainly are!) more important.


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#24 elemimele

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Posted 25 May 2021 - 07:45

... and all of us will know so many adults who reached grade X as a kid, but no longer play their instrument. It sits in its case, back from their youth. That wasn't really the point of learning, was it?

 

Meanwhile, kid's first primary school teacher used to speak in very self-deprecating terms about her own piano playing, and yet she was there, every day, at a battered primary-school piano, surrounded by a sea of tiny kids, singing away with her as she sang, spoke, played, gestured, and did all those lovely interesting things. If you had an idea in her class, you painted it, you sang it, danced it, and probably had a go at making it out of bits of coloured paper. Singing was just another part of normal human life.

 

Cyrilla's right about the balance of ability and desire-to-do-it, too; I've met too many adults who are really very good at what they do, but find it completely dull, and look back at 30 years of career in resignation that it was necessary to pay the mortgage. It probably was, but life needs to be seasoned with a bit of creativity too.

 

On IT/gaming/social media: this is, I think, a bit of a weird one. Social media can cause enormous anxieties, probably like any social situation (those who are not networkers, who don't feel attractive, will always suffer when things go social) - but magnified by the way there seems no escape from it. But gaming, weirdly, can be an amazing world for the oddball, the person who doesn't fit in. The gaming community is a very welcoming one, generally extremely non-judgemental. It now covers all ages, from battered 70 year olds who secretly want to have a go with the first video game they bought for their kids but never really played back then, to precocious 10-year-olds doing strange things with minecraft. There is room in gaming for almost anyone, and for some, it becomes an opportunity: it is a world where good artwork is valued, and where you can start designing characters, where computer graphics meets glitter-pens, and screens merge with paper. And, it's a major commissioner of new music nowadays. Game sound-tracks are business, and some are of a very high musical quality. It is an opportunity... but also for some, a pointless addiction. 


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#25 Boogaloo

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Posted 25 May 2021 - 08:24

Well said Elemimele on all your points in both posts!

 

And yes, some of the gaming music is fantastic - some is indistinguishable from great film music, which in turn is indistinguishable from great classical music in many respects - my 21 year old son listens to it all, (with a bit of Eminem alongside!) and I've been quite impressed and caught up with the gaming music. He listens to any of it and asks musical questions about it - how fantastic that he can truly appreciate so many different musical styles and educate his musical mum on it too!

 

There used to be a phrase that sums up most of which is being commented on in these posts - "Keeping up with the Jones's" - does anyone use that phrase anymore?!


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#26 Cyrilla

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Posted 25 May 2021 - 21:53

... and all of us will know so many adults who reached grade X as a kid, but no longer play their instrument. It sits in its case, back from their youth. That wasn't really the point of learning, was it?

 

Meanwhile, kid's first primary school teacher used to speak in very self-deprecating terms about her own piano playing, and yet she was there, every day, at a battered primary-school piano, surrounded by a sea of tiny kids, singing away with her as she sang, spoke, played, gestured, and did all those lovely interesting things. If you had an idea in her class, you painted it, you sang it, danced it, and probably had a go at making it out of bits of coloured paper. Singing was just another part of normal human life.

 

Cyrilla's right about the balance of ability and desire-to-do-it, too; I've met too many adults who are really very good at what they do, but find it completely dull, and look back at 30 years of career in resignation that it was necessary to pay the mortgage. It probably was, but life needs to be seasoned with a bit of creativity too.

 

As ever, you hit the various nails fairly and squarely!

 

My Grade 7 piano exam means zero.   I could probably just about get through Grade 1 pieces now and almost never play for pleasure.   One nice forum member once described my piano playing as 'enough to make you weep'  :glare:.

 

Kid's teacher sounds how many primary teachers used to be - they are, in the main, very different beasts these days :(.  'Singing was just another part of normal human life' :wub:.   Which it should be!!

 

Re the ability/desire thing - have you ever read the late, great Sir Ken Robinson's 'The Element'?? :wub:  He defines this as finding the thing that a) you are good at and b) that you love doing.   Only one of these things isn't enough - it has to be both.

 

:)


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#27 jenny

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Posted 28 May 2021 - 09:45

This makes me realise how fortunate my grandchildren are to go to a Primary school where they sing a lot and have a music teacher who plays both piano and guitar. 


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#28 Latin pianist

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Posted 29 May 2021 - 07:25

Having thought I hadn’t really got any parents like this, yesterday a mum whose child goes to a Prep school and is learning grade 3 pieces but we do lots of other repertoire too, said she’d been talking to a Y9 student at the school where she teaches who was at Grade 7 level and as her daughter (Y6) only had 2 more years at the school she wanted her to get as far as possible before she went onto another school where she probably wouldn’t have time to practise. I explained that we could just learn exam pieces and take more than one exam a year but the girl would not have a very useful skill. I hope she took this on board. 


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#29 elemimele

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Posted 29 May 2021 - 11:50

I am so so sad at all this "won't have time to practise" stuff. I mean, if there's a keyboard/piano available in the house, just sitting there, how difficult is it to keep piano skills trundling along? I know a good handful of adults who use piano as a way to unwind and relax, as something totally different to all the work-related activities that cause them stress, so piano takes them to a different world with different demands, and restores their equilibrium. (I know even more who find a bit of idle strumming of a guitar does the job).

All you need to do is stop next to the piano once a day, and play a couple of pieces, and your skills won't actually go backward. In fact if you enjoy it, and occasionally look out new pieces, then they will gradually go forwards. Not as fast as if you spend an hour a day plugging away at technique, but I firmly believe that the person who plays a musical instrument for 10 minutes every day will, after 5 years, be substantially more able than they were at the start, not to mention the good it will have done them at a human level.

And if your kid won't find ten minutes a day, is that really a healthy work/life balance?


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#30 Saxwarbler

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Posted 01 June 2021 - 18:00

I am so so sad at all this "won't have time to practise" stuff. ....

And if your kid won't find ten minutes a day, is that really a healthy work/life balance?

I'm not a music teacher but - as a grandparent and adult learner - I do agree with what's being said. Remembering back to my twelve-year-old self at grammar school, it was never like this. We did different things, not everything. Some danced, some ran, some read and some played musical instruments. Nobody (except the teachers, sadly) expected us to be good at everything - just that we worked hard and achieved at 'something'. Even if we sometimes thought certain achievers were a bit 'stuck up' we secretly admired that girl's skill. One very high-achieving musical girl is now deputy principal at a rather prestigious English music school. How much better would she have done, I wonder, if her mother had also 'encouraged' her to take karate and ballet?


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