This is a question I have found myself asking at least twice in the past when finding myself in a situation you may well be familiar with yourself – inheriting a year 11 class who haven’t done enough towards their GCSE Music with your predecessor. It is a common comment on social media at the moment and has inspired me to share my thoughts.
Your class may be in this predicament for more than one reason:
These are by no means the only reasons, but the ones I have come across frequently in my travels, both as a teacher myself and when supporting others. It may be that you are more comfortable teaching a specification you are familiar with, or that you study all the options to make a decision based on their ability or interests and therefore you decide to switch – it’s the start for you but the middle for them!
So what DO you do?
I would suggest that the most important thing you have in your arsenal is your relationship with the students. Whether you are new to the school or just new to the class you need to be honest with them. I promise you they will appreciate being made to feel like they are in on the facts. Let them own their learning.
Tell them how it is –there’s lots of work to do BUT you HAVE A PLAN! It’s important here to NOT blame anyone and if the class start laying into their previous teacher don’t let them! Look forward positively - “yes well, we’re in this together now, we can DO THIS!” This really works with a disillusioned and disengaged class who at first glance are an attitude filled teenage nightmare… take it from me!
You will know exactly what has to be created/recorded/written and by when. This is where The Plan comes in.
Lay out a timetable – week by week or lesson by lesson. Have deadlines – all to hand in Composition 1 by November; all to record solo performances by Christmas and so on. You may not know your class very well yet but you’ll have a class list and the term dates – that’s all you need.
Make a display! I used A3 sugar paper and my bare hands and a long ruler to create a table:
Mine loved taking my big pen and ticking their boxes when they’d finished. I admit to bribery – a little Haribo and competition goes a long way. It may be that your preference is not to track progress so publicly, so an alternative:
Get them used to performing to each other and you as soon as possible. After you have shared your plan, set them a task – choose a piece of music to perform to the class in a week’s time (I mean September, or whenever it is you’ve taken over). Tell them you’ll use it to assess them and set their targets. Here is where it is a useful exercise for you too. (Now, I know you may not have any control over the targets SLT set on the school data system, but a sensible “baseline test” will help you with any justification you may or may not end up having to make!) Use the marking criteria to do this and share that with them too. (ALERT – self/peer assessment opportunity here!)
I once managed to get SLT sign off for two days where I had my class off timetable all day to get recording done – when I did not get this another year, I planned it into their timetabled lessons and/or held them in the holidays. Off-timetable really helps, though. The sense of camaraderie, and listening and helping each other record creates a lovely atmosphere too. If you end up giving up a holiday day bring cake – treats always help!
Most of all, keep the music and the students at the heart of what you do, and you’ll do fine ♫
Marie Bessant - Subject Specialist - Music
Marie joined OCR in July 2014 as a Music Subject Specialist after teaching Music for 10 years. With experience as Head of Department at secondary schools and FE colleges Marie has taught GCSE, A Level, BTEC and HND. As OCR’s Music specialist Marie is leading the development for the new Music GCSEs and A Levels as well as looking after resources, CPD and support for the current Music qualifications. Alongside this Marie is an organist and pianist with a love for rock music.