R – Alrighty then, let’s say you’re a public school music teacher – pick your grade bracket – concerned about advocacy. And let’s say you just are looking for any way at all to debunk the myriad myths people have about what your program is or isn’t (“What? the kids learn something more than the songs???”). And let’s make this really hypothetical: let’s say that you are holding an event where hundreds of parents, community members and taxpayers will be showing up. And to make this WAY over the top, let’s pretend there was a way to pass something out to each and every one of them to read. For FREE!!! While they’re in their seat waiting for the concert to begin!
I know this scenario is radically far-fetched and completely in dreamland, but play with it for a moment… what would you give them? A piece of paper with student names? Song titles? Thanking the Boosters?
You show me a school music teacher who utilizes program notes in their concert program and I’ll show you a community that understands the educational agenda behind each song of the concert. You show me a school music teacher who utilizes a cover page in their concert program that discusses the philosophical and educational foundation of their music department and I’ll show you a community that supports the program for all the right reasons. You show me a school music teacher who includes recent data in the arts which powerfully articulates its value in their concert program and I’ll show you an informed community. You show me a teacher who truly utilizes their concert program as the most extraordinary advocacy tool at their disposal year after year after year and I’ll show you a someone who is walking the walk of really being pro-active.
“I don’t have time to do all that…”. Ya know what? I would argue that you don’t have time not to (if you’re not making time for this, what are you doing?). And based on national trends in K-12 education, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.
It’s amazing how many music teachers lament the lack of awareness of administrators and parents about the educational value of what we do, and then refuse to do anything to inform them. “They should know, I shouldn’t have to tell them” is not a valid excuse. People should know that smoking kills, doesn’t mean the warning on the side of the pack is a bad idea.
I haven’t found the issue to be teachers who aren’t doing their best to get the good word out, I’ve just found this to be a largely untapped resource. It’s a frustrating position for all of us to be in because, frankly, we SHOULDN’T have to tell them! Visual and Performing Arts are listed as “core” in no child left behind legislation, MLR recognizes Music as a distinct discipline and the funding rubric the state adopts each year per school includes funds for the arts (they don’t for athletics…). It really has so much more to do with getting communities to “unlearn of the irrelevant” of our music programs, and that can be a tiring ongoing process.