One of the sessions I was asked to contribute to at #mf2 was all about being a champion school. In MF England, Musical Futures Champion Schools were set up in response to the positive reactions experienced when teachers talked about their experiences in the early days of MF to other teachers. The benefits of holding training in schools so that delegates could see the layout, use the resources and meet some students and talk to them about their experiences, grounding it in the reality of the day to day demands of doing the job were clear.
Champion schools in the UK in the last few years have been really diverse, from departments where MF is fully embedded and used across the curriculum by all staff, to schools where one teacher flies the MF flag alone despite the reluctance of colleagues. However, the teachers and schools that host training for us have played a major role in the growth of Musical Futures and I am proud to be one of them.
In the session, I spoke about 3 requirements of being a champion school:
1. To constantly push to keep up with the latest ideas in music education and flex and change practice to try new things and search for new approaches within the MF ethos
2. To contribute and share ideas and resources with other teachers and with Musical Futures. The ‘Take, Use, Innovate, Share’ concept grew from the idea that it’s OK for MF to look slightly different from school to school, as long as the key principles are in place.
3. To have an open door policy and welcome visitors to lessons (within reason). I’ve had visitors from across the world in my classes, all looking for slightly different things. My tactic is to choose a day where I have a Y9 class followed by a non-contact period and stick to the same day for each request to visit. This way the students get used to visitors, they really respond to it and there’s time to discuss the lesson afterwards as well. It’s great for taking a step back and looking objectively at the lesson, feedback is usually good but I’ve also found myself having to explain the thinking behind what I do which is always a really useful process.
At the end of the session I realised that although these are things we ask of our champion schools, they are also really positive for the teachers involved. And so if that is the case, surely we should all view ourselves as champion teachers and follow those 3 guidelines across our departments. Imagine how effective that could be?
Photo shows Musical Futures UK champion teachers, Jan 2014 photo by Emile Holba