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Not new, just different…

not new just different - teacher and musician

A brief moment of quiet in the music department.  The kids have gone home.  The teachers have gone home.  The cleaner is here, somewhere, but he is so much quieter than the pupils that I am immune to the odd bit of dusting or hoovering.  As the quiet sinks in, I have to ask myself how this first week has been and, as my mind darts through all the things that have happened in eight days back at work, I suddenly realise just how busy I have been.  Not only has this been the start of a new year but it has been the start of a new job at a new school and I can only conclude that there’s an awful lot of work that we do that we don’t even realise we’re doing.

In essence, this job isn’t much different to the last one.  I was Head of Music at a school in Slough but now I am Director of Music at a school in London.  The change of title doesn’t change the role and the change of the location doesn’t change the fact that this is still a school.  That said, things are done differently.  I’m not talking about big things like ‘we would never do that’ or far reaching policies.  Mostly it’s the little things that are different.  The form used to order resources – different.  The number of periods in a day – different.  Which doors can be locked and which can be left open – different.  Small things that I’m already well adjusted to but have thrown me for a few moments throughout the last week.  Learning to do the same thing differently takes time.  Learning to do lots of old things differently takes lots of time.

I’m not the only one having to learn to do something I’ve done for ages in a new way.  I have introduced the school to Musical Futures principles and all of our Key Stage 3 teaching could happily be described as ‘MuFu’.  Watching staff members adjust to this is just like watching me get the hand of administering peripatetic lessons here – adapting to the differences.  It takes time to get your head around the differences and then takes more time to allow those differences to become habit.  In the same way that I have accidentally dialled the number of my old school’s front office rather than the new school’s reception, it is natural that teachers will mix and match old with new in their lessons.  This is great.  Something new will grow out of that and I can’t wait to see what it turns out to be.

It also has me thinking about my own teaching.  I am asking myself why I am doing things that have been successful in the past and it is resulting in me improving my practice.  I always knew that I would have to adapt my teaching to suit a new environment but it certainly doesn’t hurt to improve things that don’t need adapting.  The clichéd term ‘reflective practitioner’ comes to mind but, for all it’s weary buzzwordiness, it is still a concept that I believe is vital.  I don’t want to get too comfortable in my teaching, I want to question it and move forward.  That’s the best thing for the pupils and it has the not insignificant benefit of keeping the job interesting for me.

Anyway, enough philosophising, I’ve got to figure out where the stationary is kept…