Continuing Education Opportunities for Music Educators
After having already completed years of higher education, the idea of taking precious time out of your schedule to learn more about teaching might seem unnecessary or even potentially distracting from the way you teach music. As a music educator, time inside and outside of the classroom is precious, so it’s natural to be leery of activities that pull you away from your routine, even if it’s just for a day or two. However, every music teacher stands to experience huge personal and professional gains by taking the time to further develop their careers through education and training.
Educators who make an effort to continue their education benefit in a myriad of ways, from gaining exposure to the latest research and ideas in music education to developing proven classroom management skills and teaching techniques. A recent article published by the National Association for Music Education highlights the importance of professional development for music educators: “Listening to clinicians, reading new music, and sharing ideas with colleagues is essential to growing and thriving as a music educator.”
In this article, we’ll break down why continuing your music education is important whether you’ve been a professional educator for a few years or a couple of decades. We’ll also share professional music education development opportunities worth pursuing.
Why curiosity is vital for music educators
Curiosity is a trait all music educators could benefit from having more of. Even after a short time in the classroom, habits are formed, broad assumptions are made, and the predictability of expectation creeps in. What makes curiosity such a powerful force in education is its ability to usher in energy by redefining what’s possible. Pursuing education and training opportunities embraces curiosity by showing music educators that they don’t know the whole story about their work. There’s always room for improvement and change through new ideas, methods, inspiration, and research.
Put yourself in your students’ shoes for a minute. Because music is so new to them, they’re usually engaged, open to new ideas, and generally inspired by music. This is the power of curiosity at work. Professional music education development through specialized clinics and seminars is a phenomenal way to bring back curiosity to educators. There’s a whole world of perspectives and methods separate from your own within music education, and making efforts to keep learning is a great way to tap into it and bring what you’ve learned back to your work.
A 2014 article published in Fast Company argues that while curiosity hugely benefits children, it’s something that can be a gamechanger for adults in their professions: “Curiosity at its core allows us to find the very questions we should be asking and exploring to evolve our businesses.”
Why outside education perspectives are so important for educators and students
Whether it’s through motivational seminars or specialized instrument clinics, continuing your music education leads to curiosity by showing you that you don’t have all the answers. No single educator contains the complete story when it comes to how music can or should be taught to students. This means that making efforts to learn from others over and over again throughout our careers is needed to develop and grow us as music educators.
It can be hard to show up to your classroom ready to fully engage your students day after day for years. This is why furthering your education and training is so vital. Opening yourself up to new ideas can keep you from feeling uninspired and jaded.
A paper published by the education organization Learning Forward posits that professional development is crucial in giving teachers perspective on the needs of their students:
“Good teaching is not an accident. While some teachers are more naturally gifted than others, all effective teaching is the result of study, reflection, practice, and hard work. A teacher can never know enough about how a student learns, what impedes the student’s learning, and how the teacher’s instruction can increase the student’s learning. Professional development is the only means for teachers to gain such knowledge. Whether students are high, low, or average achievers, they will learn more if their teachers regularly engage in high-quality professional development.”
What makes music educators resistant to furthering their education
Some music educators want to further their education but can’t find the time to. Others don’t see the value in doing so. Here’s a list of common obstacles keeping music educators from pursuing continuing education opportunities:
Lack of time
Many educators want to further their music education, but can’t seem to pry themselves away from the daily demands of their classrooms. According to EdTech Magazine, it’s not uncommon for music teachers to work 12-16 hour days.
With hours that extreme, it makes sense why an educator wouldn’t want to put even more time into their job. But the benefits professional music education delivers are worth carving out the time for. In fact, the skills and techniques you’ll acquire through clinics and seminars will probably end up giving you ways to better manage and save your time in the classroom.
Lack of motivation (burnout)
If you’re feeling burnt out in your role, taking the extra step of furthering your professional music education development is probably the last thing on your mind. A major problem plaguing education today, teacher burnout is one of the leading factors in educator attrition.
Adding in the hassle of attending special classes, clinics, and seminars might seem counterintuitive for jaded music educators, but doing so could breathe new life and meaning into your work. Inspiration is a centerpiece of education, even if the students are adult educators. Motivational speaking and specialized training aimed at helping teachers combat this issue is a major part of professional music educator development, so if you’re suffering from burnout, furthering your education and training might be just what you need to move forward.
Lack of funding
At an average yearly salary of just over $41,000, music educators often struggle to pay their bills. With that in mind, it makes sense why many educators don’t bother to pursue continuing their education.
But between grants aimed at improving educator performance and existing funding available to educators through their schools, there’s plenty of opportunities to further your development and education for little or even no cost.
Opportunities for music educators to further their education
There’s a myriad of educational and professional development opportunities out there to explore. Some are based in the state you teach in, and others are sponsored by schools, music companies, and education initiatives. Here’s a list of some worth exploring:
The National Association for Music Education offers a range of impactful professional music education opportunities, including research conferences, specialized workshops, and webinars. Since 1907, the NAfME has operated under a mission of ensuring that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music instruction taught by qualified teachers.
Music & Arts offers some of the best professional and educational development opportunities in music education. From specialized sessions covering instrument repair, string pedagogy, and reed maintenance to informative seminars to aimed at helping you rediscover the joy and passion in your job, these clinics are designed to completely change the way you teach. Participating presenters range from professional musicians and influential educators to industry leaders like instrument experts and brand representatives. Music & Arts clinics are designed for college students, directors, and music program leaders.
Calling itself the “ultimate 3-day online professional development for music educators worldwide,” the International Music Education Summit is perfect for educators not able to travel. The digital summit features clinics, workshops, sessions, and concerts led by music education experts.
MusicFirst is an organization dedicated to providing cloud-based solutions to enable music learning, creation, assessment, sharing, and exploration. They offer professional music education development opportunities with a focus on all things digital, including one-hour webinars, week-long workshops, and full-semester courses.
Berklee provides a variety of special education opportunities for music educators working with special needs students, from professional workshops and conferences to consultations.
Quaver Music is an influential music education organization that offers digital and on-site conferences, on-demand instruction and guidance, and video training sessions.
These are just a few of the many professional development options out there, so feel free to do your own research. If you’re invested in being the absolute best music educator you can possibly be, then pursuing career and development opportunities is something you should be doing again and again throughout your career.