Top 8 Challenges Faced by Music Teachers in 2017

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Whether they are new to the classroom or they have been teaching for years, music educators have the potential to encounter some significant challenges such as funding, student motivation, and parent involvement. It is important to understand not only the proper ways to handle these challenges, but also the lessons that can result from overcoming them. Students pursuing an advanced degree in music education may also benefit from discussing these issues with fellow teachers and faculty mentors.

Learn about eight challenges that Master of Music in music education (MMME) students may discuss that are faced by music teachers in 2017.

Answering Arguments Against the Necessity of Music

A music educator in the classroom.
Image via Flickr by Sasha Vasko moved to Ipernity

In many school districts across the nation, policymakers, educators, and parents alike consider music education optional rather than necessary. As The Guardian explains, this often leads decision makers to believe that only students who demonstrate above-average music skills should pursue education in this subject. In such a scenario, music education may become an elective available to students who show promise rather than a standard subject that all students learn.

In 2017 and likely beyond, music educators may find that emphasizing the importance of music could help decision makers better understand the value this subject offers to students. For example, music teachers can do more than simply teach students to play instruments, sing songs, or read music. They have the potential to produce a range of positive outcomes, such as teaching students confidence, creativity, self-reliance, and resilience.

Addressing Funding Issues

For many music educators, questions about the value of music and districtwide budget concerns continue to cause funding issues, even in 2017. The Orange County Register reports that even the Grammy Music Educator of the Year, Keith Hancock, struggles with funding issues in his own classroom. As he explains, policymakers appear to understand the importance of music education, but they do not always make funding decisions that reflect the value of the subject.

In the San Francisco Examiner, violinist and arts advocate Pinchas Zukerman explains that while insufficient funding for music education is not unique to the United States, educators in American classrooms may be able to address funding issues in unique ways. Emphasizing music’s inclusive nature and using the internet to stream performances and cultural opportunities could be just the beginning of educators’ efforts to attract interest and regain the funding their classrooms need.

Adapting Teaching Strategies to Meet Student Needs

Music teachers are not alone in feeling pressure to accommodate students who have a wide range of needs. A one-size-fits-all approach to teaching rarely enables teachers to educate students effectively or meet district-mandated objectives. Instead, educators must increasingly master the ability to provide individualized learning opportunities while managing full classrooms.

Adopting a performance-based learning model tends to offer myriad opportunities for individualized learning. Skilled music educators can apply the teaching strategies that they prefer, such as modeling or musical problem-solving, while incorporating lessons and tools that enable students with unique needs to learn at the same pace as other students.

Incorporating Diversity

In 2017, music teachers are likely to find an increasing need to create an inclusive classroom that accommodates learners from a variety of backgrounds. While this may be a daunting prospect for some teachers, educators in music classrooms may have a range of teaching tools at their disposal.

Unlike educators who specialize in some other subjects, music teachers may be able to connect with students easily through culture, sound, and history. By using rhythms, instruments, and music from a range of cultures, music teachers can include a more diverse group of students in the classroom while introducing them to a wider spectrum of sounds and styles.

Motivating Students

Meeting district objectives may inspire educators, but motivating students to improve their performance may be a constant struggle for music teachers in 2017. For many educators, incorporating diversity and emphasizing the value of music are only the beginning of encouraging students to engage and do their best work. Many music teachers find that engaging students with new technology or relying on fast-paced lessons and numerous short-term goals helps them maintain students’ attention and fosters a high level of motivation.

Assessing Student Progress

Assessing student accomplishments and progress continues to present challenges for music educators in 2017, as many struggle to reconcile standardized measures with the less concrete outcomes of music education, such as confidence and creativity. As Jay Dorfman, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Music Education at Kent State, notes in the Oxford University Press Blog, framing assessments in a positive light may enable students to understand how they have progressed and encourage them to explore their creativity further. Educators should strive to insert positive assessments into the standardized district requirements.

Involving Parents

For music teachers at all levels, encouraging parent involvement at an appropriate level remains a constant challenge and one that is likely to continue beyond 2017. Parental involvement has the potential to enhance student success, but busy schedules may prevent parents from participating at a sufficient level. Music educators may consider one of a few approaches, depending on their teaching environment and the grade level of the students.

Educators who provide general music education to elementary-level students may find value in educating parents about typical signs of progress to look for in their children, such as performance benchmarks, improved confidence, or expanded creativity. Music teachers who specialize in performance-based choral or instrumental music may need to involve parents at a higher level by teaching them about the merits of regular practice and encouraging a standard practice schedule.

Optimizing New Technology

In most school districts, educators have introduced technology to virtually every classroom. Music teachers may face challenges in determining which options are best suited for their classrooms and staying updated on optimal technology in 2017.

As the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) explains, music teachers have already begun to use interactive whiteboards, tablets, and interactive tables for online lesson plans, web-based interactive games, and information delivery vehicles. Many music educators have found that these devices motivate students, encourage creativity, provide new ideas for lesson plans, and offer engaging opportunities for in-class performance. Given the frequent debut of new technology and the potential benefits of incorporating tech into the classroom, music teachers should strive to find new ways to introduce these devices and concepts.

With preparation, resilience, and drive, music educators can handle almost any challenge they face in the classroom. An advanced education is one tool that educators can use to better prepare for and overcome the teaching challenges they face. Visit the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University to learn how an online Master of Music in music education could equip music educators with the tools they need to rise above challenges and equip their classrooms with essential tools for success.


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