how mentoring brings music to life for elementary school students
The National Music Teacher Mentorship Program was created by Richard Gill in 2015 and implemented by the Australian Youth Orchestra.
The mentoring program uses a simple formula: experienced music specialist teachers (mentors) are paired with generalist early childhood teachers in primary schools that do not have music programs to develop music programs in collaboration.
First, mentors assess teachers’ musical experience and skills, student needs, and local resources.
Second, specialist and generalist teachers work together to plan musical activities that will work for that school, that class, and that teacher.
The training involves mentors demonstrating teaching music in their own classroom, followed by a demonstration in the teacher’s classroom, as well as planning, preparing and team-teaching joint lessons, where the mentors gradually hand over the reins to teachers as they gain more skills and confidence in teaching music. .
The approach of the mentoring program is very different from typical professional development. Usually, teachers can get a lot of information in a one-day lesson, but they don’t get ongoing support when trying out new ideas in their classroom.
In this mentoring program, mentors and teachers establish an ongoing relationship based on trust, mutual respect and collaboration. Since its creation, 630 primary school teachers have been trained to teach music to 50,000 students in their classes.
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Benefits for children
This sponsorship scheme brings a ray of sunshine to children who do not have access to music at school, particularly in underprivileged schools.
Our research found that regardless of gender or socioeconomic status, the singing skills of students in these classes improved and the children showed a general improvement in their attitudes toward music.
We spoke directly to the children who participated in this program. They told us that they:
recognized the intrinsic value of music
sang and played musical games at home and school
makes music at home and while traveling by car
played musical instruments
accessed music using technology
used music for mood and self-regulation
builds social interactions and trust through music and
identified the positive impact of music on the development of literacy and numeracy.
A very well-behaved two-year-old said:
I think [music] is just as important as English and math. I think it’s just as important because if you don’t know how to express yourself or play or sing, then your life won’t be as fun as children who have had a musical education.
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Impact on teachers and schools
In addition to talking to children, we interviewed teachers, mentors and principals.
They saw many positive results from the program, including an enriched school curriculum, locally relevant programs that drew on the interests and activities of the school and its community to create musical content, building educational resources , increased confidence in teachers’ musical skills, and a positive impact on student learning and behavior.
As part of the mentorship, the music didn’t just take place in low-key classes. The mentorship program has incorporated music into daily activities and transitions between regular lessons, changing the atmosphere of entire schools.
The morning roll call became a singing game, short musical activities between lessons refreshed the children for the next task, and the children continued to sing and play musical games outside the classroom in the playground .
Teachers also noted particular benefits for children from non-English speaking backgrounds who gained English skills and personal confidence through singing and music activities.
As one teacher described it:
30% of our students come to us without speaking English at all, and now they are learning bits of the language through singing. Songs make a huge difference to children learning English because otherwise they are just silent.
Children with diverse neurological needs also became calmer in class and more actively engaged in learning. A mentor said:
The teacher was absolutely speechless about this little boy who had a number of learning difficulties, couldn’t speak, incredibly poor self-esteem. But he got up and sang and had confidence.
Bridging the gap between values and skills
The National Music Teacher Mentoring Program has developed teachers with little musical experience to deliver quality music programs in their schools.
Programs like this invest in the expertise of specialist music teachers, connecting mentors and music teachers to create music programs in elementary schools.
Our research showed that early childhood teachers place a high value on music, but express low confidence in their skills and ability to deliver music education. The National Music Teacher Mentorship Program bridges the gap between values, confidence and skills.