What Makes a Music Teacher Great?

What makes any teacher great?
This has been debated for a long time now. For years, people thought the number of students per teacher was the most important factor in learning. Then educators focused on the size of schools. Now, latest studies are showing that it’s the teacher quality which matters most.

I saw it summed up well in a US report recently. This report talks about all teachers in general- music teachers included:

“ Teacher effectiveness matters; the research demonstrates that teacher effectiveness contributes more to improving student academic outcomes than any other school characteristic” (Murphy etal., 2006, Rivkin et al,2005; Waters et al.,2003)

Traits Of Great Music Teachers
So what are some of the traits of great music teachers?
When we talk music teaching- how can we go past the classic film Mr Hollands Opus? When I look on YouTube for examples of great music teaching- it’s still one of the best! Yes perhaps it’s a film, it’s not a real situation, but it does capture to some degree the essence of what highly effective music teachers do very day. And lets face it- It’s also one of the only music teaching clips I could find which has had over 132,000 views!

Maybe you might think it’s a bit corny, and maybe I choose it because it relates most to me as a music teacher having taught beginner band and the clarinet for many years in amongst my other music teaching career paths, but then I look at the elements of teaching. Firstly, he cares; he understands the student; he has belief in the student that she can do it; he knows his stuff- he can demonstrate why it’s important to learn, help her by playing the piano, he can give the background work she needs, he can conduct the band and he puts her in a situation where she can thrive and it works for her!!

Anyway this is just one clip that can inspire music teachers- I know there is so much more out there and this clip won’t serve as inspiration for everyone- so perhaps share your favourite inspirational music teacher clip using the comment box below and I look forward to having an ongoing discussion.
However, although these clips are fun and inspiring to watch, I’m also aware that as music teachers, we need better answers. When you look up “great music teachers “ on google, there really is not yet much available. To get some researched answers, I had to take a look at what the general teaching experts are saying.

What The Experts Say
Check out this youtube panel interview clip. It’s an easy two minute watch and holds a few of the answers for all teachers in general. It’s made up of a panel of three prominent teachers who explain what they think are the traits of a great teacher are:

In this interview, I think the middle speaker Mary Kooy who is the head of teacher development and education at the University of Toronto sums it up nicely. She explained the three traits that great teachers have are:

1. Great teachers know their students well
2. Great teachers are very knowledgeable in their subject areas.
3. Great teachers are passionate learners themselves.

Learning From The Best In Our Industry
Earlier this year, we started looking into what makes a music teacher one of the best in our industry. When you look up “best music teacher” on YouTube, you get tonnes of kids saying thank you to their teachers. We know amazing music teachers do exist and I know that if you’re reading this, you’re probably amongst them. But the truth is, in our industry, the best educators are not really interviewed all that much. It’s hard to find who the “stand outs” even are at first! And you never ever see the best educators in the world mentoring and inspiring and learning from each other all in one place.

So Earlier this year, we went in search of them. We wanted to find the best of our industry. We wanted to find teachers and educators who have loads of experience and who have changed the lives of children and learners through teaching music. We wanted to find educators actually teach what the research is telling us above in music and who can inspire other teachers to increase the quality of teaching in us all. We were looking for the “real” teachers of Mr Hollands Opus!

A New Era In Professional Development
Gone are the days of having to travel a long way, only to pay extra for accommodation and meals and learn from only a few select educators in our field. Now it’s possible to wake up, get a cup of coffee, walk to your computer still in your pyjamas and do all the hours of professional development you need.

Not only do we have the chance to learn, we have the chance to learn from educators, professional musicians and coaches from all over the world and find out first hand what their little gem secrets to their success are. And furthermore, because it’s fun, you’ll learn more and you can fulfill your professional development training – all from the comfort of your own computer chair!

This year we developed a new concept at the Fun Music Company to do just that.
It’s called “ The Virtual Music Education Conference” – it’s an online conference and because it was run online, we attracted some of the best names in music education. The speakers didn’t have to travel a long way to participate- we simply called them and had some really amazing conversations.

During one week, we heard from some of the top names in our industry. The line up was very impressive to say the least and we feel very honoured to have had the contact with these amazing educators.

Last Chance
At the time of the conference back in July,we sold out of tickets! We could only take 1000 participants at the time to enable the best online experience for all participants. We certainly didn’t want any computer crashes to happen from our end because too many attendees logged in at the same time – and thank fully all ran smoothly.

However this did mean that some people missed out!

We have been asked ever since the conference about extra access. Loads of people simply didn’t get the chance to take part and many participants who loved learning from these music education “greats” wanted to listen not just once, but over and over again.

Now I know that because you are reading an article such as this you are already a top music educator. The question is : would you aspire to continuing to be a highly effective teacher. Do you love learning? Here’s what the latest research and articles are telling us;
“Highly effective teachers are continuous learners. They read motivational books or listen to Mp3 recordings. They take notes to keep their own motivation high. They invite speakers into their classrooms, and feel revitalized. A teacher who continues to learn will have an unlimited career in education.”

We get emails from this type of music teacher every day. Many have asked us about a way to get access to a “hard copy” of the interviews so they can listen to them over the holidays and continue their learning.

So..for just this month of December 2013, we’ve put together a last chance USB stick deal for access to the conference. Click here for all the details.

6 Comments

  • By Arthur Glover Reply

    I was singing in church before I ever met Sister Marie Baptiste in the fourth grade. But I will say that, she was the most inspiring music teacher for me at Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in Brooklyn, NY. She taught us many exciting songs that I still remember today and it was with her encouragement that I ended up in the choir and auditioning for the Archdiocese of New York All City Chorus. As a result of her influence and the choir directors a OLV, I have had the opportunity to sing in several professional choirs around the world, start two vocal groups and three bands. I still sing today in my church choir and music is a big part of my life. I also teach elementary piano lessons and like Sis. Marie Baptiste, I make it FUN.

  • By Amy Reply

    A great music teacher isn’t like any other classroom teacher – they know how to express creativity, yet they DON’T make it about them putting on a show to convince their students. Kids are much smarter at a younger age and they can see right through fakery. Great music teachers are one’s that their students respect and love what they teach, not because they (the teacher) are good at it, but because they yearn to see the students discover something musically 🙂

  • By Martin Reply

    I totally agree that the quality of the teacher is of utmost importance.
    The quality of the classes depends mostly on the teacher.
    One of the most important things is that the teacher is knowledgeable, always tries to improve and uses a lot of various techniques and approaches.
    This is why we want to offer some useful info to you at http://www.edumusica.es/ or http://music-education4children.weebly.com/

  • By Phil McArdle Reply

    As a lifelong learner, occasional adjunct, and semi-pro musician myself, I totally agree.

    I feel the need to share with you a name: Julian Bradley. He has a huge assortment of jazz improvisation and general keyboard technique lessons on YouTube, and I find he’s that rare individual who can play, write, analyze, and teach with equal facility. I’ve had teachers who are dry, boring, impossible, patronizing.. bad… Mr. Bradley’s the opposite: engaging, entertaining, obviously knowledgable and passionate about his subject as your article points out.

  • By Janice Reply

    Thanks so much for your kind words Kaylie- and I’m so glad you agree. I look forward to keeping connected with your future blogs- keep up the good work.

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