No Child Left Behind (NCLB) supports music as a core subject, but general music teachers often struggle for their time with students.

MENC member Anita Willard points out that her state standards require at least 60 minutes per week per student. However, she often finds that getting in that little bit of time each week is difficult. The problem? Classroom teachers who don’t take music class seriously.

Some ways classroom teachers keep their students from her music class:

  • To make up missed class work or homework. Willard asks, “Can you imagine the clamor if I took the same student out of math class to make up what he missed in music?”
  • Because their desks weren’t cleaned out. Some classroom teachers regularly send students to music when and if they feel like it. Sometimes only 3 to 7 of 23 students show up in class.
  • Because they were busy. Some classroom teachers habitually send their students 10 to 15 minutes late.

In addition, special needs students are scheduled for music to give their classroom teacher a break, not when it is best for the music teacher to give them a class they deserve.

Willard says, “All that really matters to some is that I keep the class ‘out of someone else’s hair’ for 40 minutes.”

Similar complaints appear on the general music forum:

  • One teacher kept her class from music as a punishment for misbehaving, telling the class that music is a privilege.
  • Another teacher frequently tells the music teacher which students have been disruptive in her class and requests that these students not be allowed to participate in music as their punishment.

What’s a general music teacher to do? MENC member Christine Nowmos recommends

  • Talking to the principal to verify that this behavior is not allowed.
  • Most states mandate minimum time for music. To check this out for your state, visit the Arts Education State Policy Database provided by the Arts Education Partnership.
  • A general reminder to all teachers that they are not allowed to keep students from music [or art or other] class per state and/or federal law should help.

 Nowmos prepares a newsletter every other month. She sends it home with every child in the school, gives it to all staff members, and e-mails it to every employee in her district. “I include not just info about what’s going on in my classes and what our performing groups are doing, but I also try to include an article on music education research and/or standards,” she says.

“I have seen a big change in attitudes about music and toward my program in general since I’ve started a newsletter; people tell me all the time that they learn a lot of things from reading it,” Nowmos says. “Also make sure that when you are doing something that integrates music into another subject that you let people know about it.”
Anita Willard teaches at Nellie Hart Sterling Elementary School in Warrensburg, MO.

Christine Nowmos teaches at Mary S. Shoemaker Elementary School in Woodstown, NJ.

–Linda Brown, June 11, 2008. © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)