Home > Columns > Pedagogical Big Mac 2 Years On – Part 3 – Questions Answered (?)

Pedagogical Big Mac 2 Years On – Part 3 – Questions Answered (?)

2 years after my first Guest Editorial for teachingmusic.org.uk my second is about to be published. However, looking back on my pedagogical big mac how did I come to write it and how have things changed now?

This part looks at one thought provoking reply I received and never answered. Now two years later I give it a go. Feedback in bold – replies in normal font.


I enjoyed reading your piece and found it entertaining and puzzling in equal measure. You make many, many excellent points throughout but seem to suffer from the very infliction you rail against.

This is completely accurate and shows my blatant hypocrisy. Topic – keep things short. Word length – let’s not go there.

I was wondering what a more heavily edited version of your editorial would read like? What, in a nutshell (or a tweet), do you think the problem is?

In a tweet I need summary, links or insight starting with 140 characters not an essay and a never ending list of questions.

Is it about simplicity? Do teachers really just want a simple idea that they can work with and ‘deliver’? Are music teachers really not concerned about models of curriculum development or teacher development that they can draw on to improve their work?

I don’t personally want simple ideas that I can regurgitate. However, I do want a hook. I want to be motivated to read more rather than just given a chunk of text. I should be careful speaking on behalf of all music teachers however I would imagine a significant majority of music teachers are concerned with finding more out about models of curriculum and/or teacher development. I would suggest that those who do not however, do not because of how vast the whole debate can seen. Bitesize pieces surely make it easier for everyone?

Is it about equity and access? Do teachers feel their voice is ignored or, even worse, they just feel patronised as you have done on occasions?

I do think it is very much about access. Differentiation for those with limited time rather than limited intellect. I have anecdotal evidence of colleagues feeling patronised. I have heard even more anecdotal examples of colleague who feel some are out of touch with the classroom.

Is it about priorities? Are music teachers really so busy that they can’t find time to think about the questions you raise? (After all, you found time to write your excellent piece?)

I did find time. Excellent point. One I should perhaps have taken more time to reflect on at the time. Things can be very important but easily forgotten. Marking is very important but very easy to fall behind on. Planning is very important, yet I know a number of colleagues both music and otherwise who “wing it” because of other things that need the time more.

Is it about policy? Are you, and other music teachers, concerned about the impact of policy decisions are, or have been, taken already?

I would say some are however I get the impression large proportions of music teachers don’t really pay much attention feeling there is nothing they can do about it.

Is it about a perceived gap between theory and practice? Do music teachers really not want to think about what they do, celebrate successes and make things better when required?

Definitely there is a perceived gap between theory and practice. In my experience a lot more value is placed on ‘doing it’ rather than ‘thinking about it’ in school environments. I’m sure music teachers do want to think about what they do. However can they if the are left confused, demotivated and frustrated from reading large chunks of text that at 1am make no sense and make them feel like they are doing things wrong?

Is it about a lack of confidence in our subject? I’m not sure there is any other curriculum subject that would put up with being treated like Music has been in the last yearor so. Are music teachers feeling marginalised and under-represented?

I do not believe it is about a lack of confidence in our subject but more about a lack of the confidence required to identify mistakes and move forward from them. Some texts I read are brilliant at prompting the mind to think about moving on, however with that comes an acknowledgement you haven’t been doing it already.

So, finally, is it about a lack of credibility or care from those who purportedly represent music education at a national level? Are music teachers struggling to find appropriate ways to make their voices heard?

I believe there is a lack of credibility from anyone who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Yes I’m aware readers may grown at this phrase but I look up to people who can do it. There are huge amounts you could in theory get done in a one hour lesson, but in practice this can difficult to achieve, or at least more difficult. Think of unexpected fire alarms. Notes from Year Leaders. Requests for work for those pupils isolated. A new TA in the room on cover as it’s exams. Room changes. Groups of kids on the corridor needing a nudge to their lesson. Those who represent music education at a national level need to do more to reach out to teachers. When I went to the NAME conference a couple of years ago there were 6 teachers sat in the room for a break out session where those in similar fields got together. Surely this is an area for significant improvement?

Or is it all of the above? Or is it something different?

I see your point. It’s all and non. In writing it perhaps the angle I was going for was to get people thinking. Maybe that’s ultimately the most hypocritical thing about my piece. However at least it was aimed in the other direction this time.

I loved the questions. A great way for giving feedback and deepening thinking. I may not have responded at the time but I did nick the idea in a lesson a couple of days after you sent it and still use it now!


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