8 Things To Say To Advocate For Music Education
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
We teachers all have hills we'd die on.
And this, friends, is one of mine.
Music is an academic subject area!
That's easy for me to say, and probably you too. We've lived the academic music experience in college, during student teaching, and in graduate school. We've written the papers, given the presentations, rehearsed and directed the concerts, and spent hours and hours in practice rooms preparing for recitals, performance exams, and, as in my case, thesis and portfolio defenses.
Unfortunately, a lot of music educators end up metaphorically banging their heads against a wall when it comes to conversations about the value of our subject area.
Music students create, perform, respond, and connect. They imagine, plan and make, analyze, interpret, rehearse, and evaluate. I'd think you'd be hard-pressed to say these skills, taken from the National Core Music Standards, are not academic.
So why is music so often relegated to a supporting subject?
"We need music because it helps students with math and reading!"
"We need music because it raises test scores!"
Here's the thing though. You don't exist solely to support other teachers.
Federal law states music's equivalency to other subject areas. The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 advocates for a well-rounded education for every child and has tremendous implications for music education.
Music is worthy of study on its own. And we should not need to defend it. It's time we leave behind conversations trying to justify music's existence, or trying to prove it's worthy because it helps students in other academic areas.
I know it's easy to default to those kind of arguments. And under pressure to prove yourself to others, it can be hard not to take things personally. So going the defensive route feels appropriate.
But music education doesn't need to win or triumph over anything else. It just needs space to be.
So let's advocate for it instead. Let's put it on an equal playing field- not just because ESSA says it is, but because we know it deserves to be. How can you help music education? I've got your starter kit below.
Here's what you can say when you find yourself needing to be an advocate:
"I'm curious as to why you feel that way."
"I'd love to talk to you sometime about what we do in the music classroom."
"I'd love to invite you into my class to learn what we do in music."
"Come see a band/chorus rehearsal some time!"
"Students deserve high quality music education, and I am doing my best to provide that."
"I am very proud of what my students have achieved this year."
"My students work hard in my classroom and they leave the room feeling successful and proud."
"My students have shown teamwork, goal-setting and follow-through, and empathy in my classroom this year, and that is a valuable experience for them.
All of these advocating statements either a) come from a place of wanting to learn or teach, b) put the focus on student achievement, or c) find common ground. There is nothing personal in these statements. They're not about you and your feelings. And they're not defensive.
Phrases like these need to become muscle memory
Being an advocate is vital, but voicing that advocacy can be nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing. Practice these statements! In the mirror, in the car, to your friends. Say them proudly and genuinely. Because we are all life-long learners, and we're all proud of our students. Coming from a place of compassion and pride, I think you're very likely to at least begin a productive conversation.
What would you add to this list? Have you tried any of these before? What was the result?
Pin this to keep these ideas at the ready!
Share your stories with me! You can leave a comment below, or reach out at email@example.com or @ADifferentMusician on Instagram.