Teacher focus: Frances Jones
'Inspire, enthuse, encourage...' These are some of the words I wrote down in a notebook when in my first year as a music teacher at a large comprehensive in Cambridgeshire. I was trying to create tangible motivation, urging myself to push on through and reminding myself why I was in this job in the first place. I knew what I wanted to do, but occasionally my determination was wavering in the face of the day-to-day challenges of life as an NQT.
Eleven years later and I find myself sitting down once more, reflecting rather than urging. I know why I want to teach music - I believe musical experiences can be joyful, transformational, life-affirming - but my focus has shifted slightly. Throughout most of my career I have been the sole music teacher in the school; bumbling along but without much contact with others in the same position. In my previous school, an independent Junior where I taught for five years, there was no peripatetic team at all. I've spent the last eight weeks as music supply teacher in a large Junior school in SW London for pupils aged 7-13; a department with two music teachers, a music assistant and a team of peripatetics. Delightful as many of my colleagues at my previous school had been, I came to realise the value of a music team to a music teacher.
I found myself thinking back to those early days at the comprehensive and how valuable it was to have a colleague teaching the same subject; to discuss a lesson, confirm a technical point, or simply exchange a hurried 'hello' in the knowledge that you were both about to embark on another day's musical ups and downs with a group of boisterous teenagers. Going further back, the reasons I found my PGCE so incredibly inspiring were two-fold; the sheer dedication and inspirational teaching of our lecturers, but also the wonderfully supportive group that formed from the PGCE cohort. Having this level of support is, of course, not possible in the real world, but I think there's something to be said for having a network to which you can turn when needed. The ISM is a wonderful institution and I value my membership. There is a value, too, in informal correspondence with other local music teachers. It's not simply to solve problems that I feel I benefit from having musical colleagues; talks that arise can be inspiring, energising and a great support.
Whilst I continue to teach music in one form or another, I'm setting up a local network for music teachers in my part of London. In order to inspire your pupils, I really believe in being inspired and encouraged, too. Of course, there are reasons teachers leave the profession after training; it isn't for everyone. But it is, I still believe, the most rewarding, fun and worthwhile job for the right person. And if a chat with a music teacher helps another in the same boat to regain their motivation for teaching, and return to work the next day with renewed energy, that can only be a good thing.