While classroom music teaching can often be a nomadic lifestyle, there are those who are fortunate enough to have their own music classroom. If that is true for you, then I am absolutely delighted.
But how do we create these spaces?
A quick Pinterest search reveals perfectly curated boards, with bright colours, laminated to perfection, with western art music terminology on neat little cards, and an obligatory treble clef.
These are all beautiful, and look very pretty in a classroom.
I need to ask a question though. Who is all of that for? For the students? Or to make our classroom look ‘good’?
I’m certain many wonderful music teachers are starting to feel cross right about now. Please, hear me out.
One of the most frustrating things about these displays is how long they take teachers. And every teacher knows that they don’t easily stay looking good. They take maintenance, need to be replaced, and often get rearranged to add something new.
And even after all that work, who are they for?
When I first became a classroom teacher, I had a very big classroom, but with hardly any wall space. This meant that I had to get creative with displays. In my teaching degree, we had spent a lot of time discussing the actual worth of displays, with the conclusion that the only displays that we needed were ones created with, by and for students, that were updated regularly.
As a result, when my students came into the classroom, we discussed what we thought we would need as a class, and spent a year updating and improving it as we went. And I never once made an art display of their work. They did. It was their work to show off, after all.
This was not a perfect system, but I could guarantee all my students could explain what we had up in the classroom.
And more importantly, they could read and understand all of it, because they were there when I wrote it down. Rather than attempting to decipher a beautiful brand new poster and figure it out on their own, they gave a quick glance, remembered being taught that exact lesson, and applied their learning.
For music teachers, as we teach all year levels, this can’t be quite the same. But the principle still stands.
The best displays are the ones created with, by and for students.
Once again, the focus is moved away from that perfect finished product, to the learning.
The best advice I can give here is give yourself an ‘organised’ blank slate. Have a grand staff ready, that you can build with the students. Allow them to create their own, and put a few up with yours. Not with a pretty border, just stuck on the wall.
You are not just showing them what it looks like, you are teaching them how it works and how it is made, so let them do it with you.
And remember that a pretty music classroom doesn’t automatically equal a good music classroom. You are a wonderful music educator, not an interior designer.
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