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10 ways to use gained time

10 ways to use gained time for music teachers - teacher and musician

Last month, I wrote about the coursework season panic and gave a few tips for getting through the madness.  By now, your coursework will be in the hands of the moderator (or external examiner) and the best advice I can give happens to be the title of an overused song from Frozen…  With the exams themselves nearly over, music teachers will now be looking at how they will use their ‘gained time’ for the rest of the academic year.  Below, I’ve gathered a few suggestions but would love to hear your own ideas.

1.  Make Key Stage 3 awesome

In the rush to coursework deadlines and with the pressure of pre-exam revision, it’s easy to let Key Stage 3 fall by the wayside.  I’m a big believer that KS3 is the most important part of a secondary teacher’s job since good KS3 teaching makes for an easier KS4.  Make your KS3 lessons the best they can be for the rest of the year.

2.  Review your KS4&5 Schemes of Work

The coursework and exam season will still be fresh in your mind, so this is a great time to review your SoWs for KS4 and KS5.  What were the most common misconceptions during exam revision?  Was there a pattern of weakness in a certain area of composition?  Did it take a gargantuan effort to figure out how many pupils were missing ensemble performances?  While this is still fresh in your mind, figure out what the problems were and plan for ways to prevent them next year.

3.  Do some transition work

I’ve written about transition a few times and it’s a topic that I think we could all consider more carefully.  Try to put aside some of your gained time to figure out how you can improve links with your feeder schools and make the transition experience as painless as possible for your incoming Year 7s.

4.  Visit other schools

With any luck, you now have a few gaps in your timetable.  Speak to SLT about using some of this time to visit other schools for some idea-sharing and to see other music teachers in action.  Watching other teachers is some of the best CPD you will ever get and the summer term could be a rare opportunity to do this.

5.  Write a first draft of your exams analysis

This one certainly wins the prize for most boring gained time suggestion but hear me out.  I’m sure that the exam classes are still on your mind and you may even find yourself waking up in the night worrying about it all.  One cathartic process can be to get a head-start on your exams analysis and get all of your thoughts down on paper.  Use the marks you gave for moderated coursework and use your professional judgement for the externally examined components.  You can then explain where you had any concerns, what you would do differently and what support you asked for but didn’t receive.  There are two main benefits from this process: it may get things off your mind and it saves you some work in September.

6.  Learn something new

CPD never stops and it certainly shouldn’t be limited to INSET and courses.  Read a book (perhaps Martin Fautley’s or David Bray’s), book yourself on a course (naturally, I’ll suggest Musical Futures!), get yourself to a TeachMeet or, my personal favourite, learn a new instrument.  The more you learn, the easier the day-to-day teaching load becomes, so it’s time well spent.

7.  Organise some popup music

Popup music is so much fun.  Be it a flash mob, the choir singing in the canteen at lunch or the big band playing in the morning at the school gates, popup music is so much fun.  Ask yourself where music is never heard in the school and make it happen.  Popup music events are a great way of embedding music into the daily life of the school and they have a really motivating impact on the pupils who perform.

8.  Redesign your classroom

I’m a little bit addicted to thinking about classroom layouts and I’ve written two posts on the topic.  The music rooms at Baylis Court must have gone through dozens of layouts in the time I spent there as I continually strove to find what worked best.  For a music room, two things are key – lots of space and lots of flexibility.  It’s not easy to achieve with the surprisingly small classrooms that some music teachers have to cope with but the process is fun and the pupils will often be excited to come into a classroom that’s so different, it’s practically a new room.

9.  Survey your pupils

Taking the time to learn what your pupils think of music lessons can be very illuminating.  That’s not to say that you should pander to pupils’ whims but I would thoroughly recommend listening to what they have to say.  It’s so easy to create an anonymous survey on Google Forms of Office 365’s Excel Forms that this can be a straightforward but very useful homework activity.  There’s some great advice about co-construction from Musical Futures on this page.

10.  Go home at a reasonable hour

Take a moment and add up all of the extra hours you’ve put in this year.  How many late nights?  How many hours checking coursework?  Pay yourself back and leave at a reasonable hour.  Leave you laptop at school, switch off school emails on your phone and have an evening to yourself.  There’s nothing wrong with forgetting about school once in a while!