What do I do when I'm asked to teach subjects other than music?

Welcome to the very first episode of Music Teachers Q & A, where Janice Tuck will be answering questions from music teachers, talking about issues that affect us all.

Today’s question comes from Mary in South Carolina, USA, and she asks:

“I’m really not happy with my teaching situation this year – I’m being asked to teach subjects other than music, and I’m not really comfortable doing this. I feel my job is more babysitting than teaching – and I’m not really teaching what I want to teach, which is music. So what can I do to convince people I should be teaching music full time?”

Watch the video above for Janice’s thoughts on this question, and after you’ve done so please fill in the comment box below so you can contribute to the discussion. As a community of Music Teachers I’m sure we can give Mary some great thoughts on how to handle this situation, as I’m sure we have all had times in our own career when we have felt like this.

Resources mentioned in this video:

14 Comments

  • By Teresa Unkefer Reply

    Your weekly emails are a delight and encouragement to me. I am a private piano instructor in my own home and at the music store in town. I also teach preschool music classes. You are a wealth of information and I thank you for taking time to encourage the music community.

    Thank you!

    • By Janice Reply

      That’s very kind of you Teresa- I’m so glad these resources have been helpful to you.

  • By Dixie Jones Reply

    See the assignment as an opportunity to learn something yourself, and to teach/influence young minds in ways more than music. Or draw interesting parallels to what you know/enjoy, e.g. math to music is easy, history to music is also full of opportunity.

    I ended up (to my chagrin) being fairly good at one assignment (or “activity” really, as I did this numerous times over ~10 years) I really did not ever enjoy or wanted to do, which was being a speaker of break-out sessions at conferences.

    The more things you are good at, the more flexible you are and the more bargaining power you have to bend (negotiate) future assignments, and therefore your career, towards the things you do enjoy teaching/doing.

    DJ

    • By Janice Reply

      Great way of looking at it Dixie- thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  • By Brelana DeLong Reply

    Music can be used with any subject. You can still incorporate songs, raps, etc. with any subject. In fact, I was asked to do MTSS–verb usage. I had students learning with a “beat”–rhyming and creating. For most students, learning math facts, correct verb usage, etc. can be done through music. Find it a challenge, and you’ll find that it is super fun!

    • By Janice Reply

      Thanks for sharing these great practical examples Brelana.

  • By Arthur Glover Reply

    I taught piano during my first teaching assignment. But my primary duties were to teach history , geography and language arts. I used music in all of these classes to draw attention to certain subject areas. I made it fun.
    While I don’t currently teach in a school, I teach at home, my students will often ask me to assist them with their homework which I gladly do.

    • By Janice Reply

      Thanks for sharing your vast experiences Arthur – really appreciate your input.

  • By Aimee Reply

    I agree that music can be used in any and every other learning area and that this type of “cross-curricular” teaching can be very effective. I do think also that it is really important to use opportunities to learn from others and to ask for advice. I know that there is precious little time to sit down, talk to other teachers and exchange ideas as teaching and everything that goes with it is just so time-consuming. However, creating opportunities to learn from others can be so beneficial and empowering and can make teaching a new subject less stressful.

    • By Janice Reply

      Good point Aimee- learning from others experience can make it a whole lot less stressful if there’s time to do so.

  • By Pauline Reply

    I agree with many of the comments-I also have to teach subjects other than music so I try and take music into those subjects-for example at the beginning of the French lesson we learn a french song. Or if it’s a Literacy lesson we may write a poem and use it as the lyrics to a song and add the music. It’s difficult but sometimes it’s fun to learn other subjects as well with the children.

    • By Janice Reply

      Fantastic examples Pauline – thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  • By Belinda Dolan Reply

    I have taught for 20 years and am music and drama trained. I have taught everything. I’ve taught year 9 lowest stream English (major literacy and behavioural problems), local history in a town I’d lived in for 2 weeks! PE, drama, dance, library and numerous supply classes. What I decided was to use the people around me. The English teacher gave me lesson plans, and I used others to do lessons. I thought I could whinge, moan and fight it or get on with it. So I got on with it. I made sure I was happy and bright and willing to help. The kids really loved that and responded to that. I was ordinary at the subject matter but made the class fun. I didn’t add music into my room, just humour.

    • By Janice Reply

      What a fantastic attitude and amazing experiences you have Belinda. I really love your comment about how it was your willingness to be fun, happy, bright and how you were willing to help others that made teaching any subject possible. It’s amazing how the kids don’t even really worry whether you know the subject well or not, but it’s you they want to be with because you care and are fun! Thanks so much for participting in the conversation so far.

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