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View Diary: Music Teacher Fired Because Of ELA/Math Test Scores (132 comments)

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  •  "Nothing really about music"? You're kidding, yes? (6+ / 0-)

    I read the Prezi slide show from a music educators' workshop that listed these potential cross-curricular topics for music educators:

    Everything on that list is "about music"!

    I'm a musician, both instrumental and vocal, and I've performed with (and directed/taught) instrumental and vocal groups of all ages. I have no problem making the following statement:

    If you can't bring at least half of those topics into the discussion of any piece of music you teach, you aren't trying.
    Want a simple example?  OK, consider dynamic markings and tempo; off the top of my head, the combination of ff and march tempo (mm=120) is an expression of interpretation, symbolism, focus, mood, time, movement, rhythm, pattern, energy, power/force, and intensity - all of which are cross-curricular concepts that can be compared to any number of examples outside the realm of music.

    At even the primary level, one can ask questions like, "What do you think the composer was trying to say when this happened?", "Did this piece make you think of anything in particular?", or "How did this music make you feel?" and be having a cross-curricular discussion in a heartbeat.

    Want a real-world example?  My son's high school choir watched the recent movie version of Les Miserables, read selected passages from the novel and discussed how the arrangements delivered (or failed to deliver) the nuances of each character to the listener, the use of different musical forms in communicating the narrative of the book, the use of particular orchestration/voicings to communicate different emotions, and the like.  That's cross-curricular music instruction in action.

    Now, can every music educator out there do this well?  The law of averages suggests that the answer is "no." Does that mean that it shouldn't be done? Hardly. Does it mean that these cross-curricular ideas are "nothing really about music"? Don't make me laugh.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 09:37:29 AM PDT

    •  Why should my teaching be all about that? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tommymet

      Why should MY evaluation be based on their ELA and math scores?

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:12:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  All about that? Or partly about that? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMScott, Aquarius40

        Why would you not want to highlight how music is part of a whole educational experience, and has significance in understanding other subjects?

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:21:04 AM PDT

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        •  See the below comment by Mister T. (0+ / 0-)

          Speaks it better than I.

          "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

          by zenbassoon on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:28:33 AM PDT

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          •  The one about everybody hating the assignment? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            reenactor, Aquarius40

            The one about the kid just copying something from the web?

            That is the best argument you can muster? Essentially the argument is that it's no fun to have to learn how music is entwined with other subjects so we shouldn't have to teach it or learn it. Actually, with that attitude you and Mister T are making a stronger case for the  need for these standards.

            “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

            by Catte Nappe on Tue May 06, 2014 at 11:23:24 AM PDT

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      •  Who said "all"? (4+ / 0-)

        Even in the case at hand (in Tennessee), the impact is only 25% of the evaluation for a teacher in a "non-tested" field.

        You seem to be arguing that educators in non-core subjects (notably the arts, but also physical education, vocational courses, and the like) should not be expected to integrate their work with the core curriculum in any fashion.

        There is great value to the musician in exploring just such an integration; for instance, an understanding of the literary and mathematical aspects of music can only boost the development of individual musicianship.  Music is so much more than just playing/singing the notes on the page. You linked an image that suggested that you teach music, in part:

        ...so you will be human, so you will recognize beauty, so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world...
        and I see integration with other topics as a key part of achieving that very goal.

        When it comes to numbers and teacher evaluations, we can certainly argue about implementation--"oh, 25% is too much, it should be no more than 15%!"--but I cannot fathom the notion that the two should be entirely separate.

        Part of a "well-rounded" education is understanding how the various pieces fit together. Cross-curricular instruction is a powerful way to develop that level of understanding.

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:42:01 AM PDT

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        •  I don't teach ELA or math. I shouldn't be (0+ / 0-)

          held accountable for a test score for a class I do not teach.

          We did just fine with cross-curricular instruction before CC$$.

          "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

          by zenbassoon on Tue May 06, 2014 at 12:30:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "just fine"? Really? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe

            You looked at that list of cross-currlcular concepts and said:

            Nothing really about music in there, is there.
            That left me absolutely slack-jawed. That statement alone suggests that we do not hold the same definition of "just fine."

            I've raised four kids who are going through (or have gone through) truly cross-curricular music education/performance at elementary, middle school, high school and university levels. Speaking as a musician, I don't hesitate to say that those efforts--which involved (gasp) writing the occasional essay or (clutch pearls) historical analysis--undoubtedly bolstered both their musicianship AND their writing/analytical skills. By the same token, listening to Pete Seeger's music deepened their understanding of the 60's protests and civil rights movement then under discussion in their history classes. (Sometimes that's all it takes - a bit of coordination among lesson plans...)

            My kids didn't take art classes in high school, but I walked past the high school's art room a few weeks ago; the teacher had displayed various propaganda posters from the WWII and Cold War eras, and was apparently discussing the political and psychological effects of various techniques.  Not a bad idea in my book...

            You aren't likely to convince me that these are bad things, or that this is a poor approach to arts education. Your comments all seem to boil down to "I think that what I do is sufficient, I definitely don't want to do anything more, and I don't want to be evaluated by any else's standard." That isn't exactly the most convincing of arguments. Merely playing Chester isn't enough; musicians should understand the history of the piece, as well its impact and significance.

            As far as your performance evaluations are concerned, the core mission of the public schools is not arts education; they're going to have to do something to put you on the same evaluation scale as your colleagues in other subject areas; arts education simply won't survive as an island. I don't see a modest connection back to core content as a significant imposition or injustice.

            The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

            by wesmorgan1 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 03:10:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is where the debate on this should be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wesmorgan1
              As far as your performance evaluations are concerned, the core mission of the public schools is not arts education; they're going to have to do something to put you on the same evaluation scale as your colleagues in other subject areas;
              It certainly doesn't seem fair to evaluate a music teacher based on how well kids are doing in their English and math classes. That should rest with the English and math teachers. But there should be some way of evaluating the music teacher on how he is integrating material into his classes that supports those subjects; as well as other performance measures that reflect on the effectiveness of teaching music.  So IMHO the arguments should be over how teachers are evaluated in all subjects, not just those two.

              “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

              by Catte Nappe on Tue May 06, 2014 at 03:30:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Oh, absolutely! (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Catte Nappe

                I would absolutely expect teachers in core subjects to be evaluated on how well they used their opportunities to reinforce subjects other than their own.

                They ALL tie together.

                The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

                by wesmorgan1 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 05:30:34 PM PDT

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                •  At the cost of their OWN subject? (0+ / 0-)

                  "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

                  by zenbassoon on Tue May 06, 2014 at 05:35:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Geez, they aren't mutually exclusive! (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Catte Nappe

                    You seem to view your subject as your turf, upon which no others may tread and from which you shall not depart. You may have primary responsibility for one piece of turf, but everyone's pieces of turf are part of the same field!.

                    The arts are intertwined with every aspect of our culture, past and present. You've been given example after example of this, and you've apparently chosen to dismiss them out of hand.

                    The incremental cost of cross-curricular work is ridiculously low; I know this because I've discussed the question with numerous teachers at the elementary, middle school and high school levels as my kids have progressed through our local schools, and with teachers in my family as well.  It can be as simple as coordinating lesson plans (History: American Revolution - Music: Chester, Yankee Doodle - Literature: Common Sense - Art: Political cartoons/handbills, use of caricature), and implementation can be as easy as a 5-minute discussion to connect the dots before diving into "your turf."  You mentioned that you teach instrumental students to play Chester; well, take 5 minutes to show them the lyrics and discuss the song's impact and popularity in its day, and you've nailed a cross-curricular point. (Yeah, those students will need to know about Howe, Cornwallis, and Burgoyne over in History class...) That's all it takes...and the history teacher reinforces you by discussing the importance of protest music (Chester was second only to Yankee Doodle among the general public) in their classroom.

                    Can every topic in arts education be cross-curricular? No.

                    Can we do a great deal of cross-curricular work in arts education? Absolutely.

                    Should we do as much cross-curricular work as possible? I believe so - in all directions.

                    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

                    by wesmorgan1 on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:02:18 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But if the evaluation becomes about how well (0+ / 0-)

                      cross-curricular material is used, then THAT becomes the focus of the lesson, rather than the subject itself. You're teaching more about the history and meaning of Chester, rather than the difficult technical 16th note passages in the bridge and how best to practice them and what the interpretation should be.

                      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

                      by zenbassoon on Wed May 07, 2014 at 03:11:55 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Wow, now you can't spare 5 minutes? (0+ / 0-)
                        You're teaching more about the history and meaning of Chester, rather than the difficult technical 16th note passages in the bridge and how best to practice them and what the interpretation should be.
                        How many hours do you spend preparing a single piece?

                        If you had but one hour's rehearsal to prepare the piece, you might have a point - but you're really going to suggest that

                        5 minutes to show them the lyrics and discuss the song's impact and popularity in its day
                        is a make-or-break, one-or-the-other, no-way-to-do-both situation for the typical music educator, who has weeks of rehearsal in which to prepare for performance?

                        Wow.

                        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

                        by wesmorgan1 on Wed May 07, 2014 at 05:07:19 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  If you're being evaluated on how well the (0+ / 0-)

                          cross-curricular material is integrated into your classroom, the pressure will be to emphasize the cross-curricular rather than the subject itself.

                          It's why schools are dropping music in favor of test prep. It's what Success Academies in New York does. Nothing but Teach To The Test.

                          They said it wouldn't happen with ELA and Math, and yet we have cheating scandals, eraser parties, whole elements of curriculum and whole subjects dropped in favor of test prep so the kids get the highest scores so the money keeps coming and the school doesn't get shut down.

                          If you want to tie music teachers to a test, tie them to a music test with musical elements--like note reading, musicianship, aural skills, singing, playing, and what not. And yes, you can even use music history for a writing portion. But keep it solely with music.

                          Cross-curricular instruction has its place, but it shouldn't be the basis for a test to evaluate teachers.

                          "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

                          by zenbassoon on Wed May 07, 2014 at 05:22:54 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

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