Parents who know what their children are learning in music class make good music advocates. Two NAfME members share their ideas.
Christine Nowmos says, “Parents don’t understand that music education is a lot more than getting kids to sing and play songs for a concert, and many won’t understand and support you unless you make connections with parents beyond just doing what you do from day to day.”
Nowmos has several ways to bring parents on board:
A newsletter. Besides concert information and student recognition, it includes
- what kids are learning in class,
- special projects they’re working on
- cross-curricular connections,
- her teaching approach,
- research in music education or facts about how studying music is beneficial.
The newsletter goes home with every child in her school and is emailed to all school employees and administrators and the school board.
A parent visitation week. During Music In Our Schools Month®, Nowmos
- sends home a flyer with the day and time that parents can visit,
- conducts a normal class to demonstrate the types of activities the kids do and the skills and concepts they’re learning,
- distributes a handout about the music program and curriculum, so parents can see how what they observed fits in with the big picture.
“Since my classes are much more interactive than most of the parents’ own childhood experiences with music class, a lot of them are surprised at how much the students are learning.”
Informance programs with kindergarteners at the end of the year.
- Students perform a selection of songs, dances, and other activities they’ve learned.
- Nowmos explains what skills the students are learning in each activity or song.
- Nowmos talks about childhood musical development and how what parents see fits in with the normal range of how kids learn music and at what rate.
“Once I started doing these things,” Nowmos says, “I began getting much more positive feedback from parents than when I was just putting on concerts and programs each year.”
Educating Parents, Teachers, & Administrators
Anna Lysiuk realized “that most parents have no idea what we do in music.” When preparing for concerts left little time to cover curriculum and focus on music skills, she turned to a colleague, Adam Foley. When he suggested a show to demonstrate skills, she crafted a program where each grade level could share something they’d learned in music with the school.
- She invites parents well in advance.
- The program demonstrates students’ skills.
- She tries to invite a parent or grandparent who plays a musical instrument to perform with the students.
- A handout explains why students do certain activities, what skills they’ve learned, and what standards were addressed.
“We usually have a lot of parents and administrators attend,” says Lysiuk. “I’ve had people, even regular classroom teachers, say, ‘I didn’t realize second graders were able to do this’ or ‘You have a curriculum?!’ People learn what we do in music and realize that we do learn.”
“This is the best way of advocating for music,” Lysiuk adds. “Words are wonderful, but when people can see what you do, they can appreciate your subject more.”
General Music Today Special Focus Issue: The Informance as a Teaching Tool in General Music, April 2010.
Christine Nowmos teaches at Mary S. Shoemaker Elementary School in Woodstown, NJ.
Anna Lysiuk teaches at Rockwell Elementary School in Nedrow, NY.
—Linda C. Brown, January 19, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)