My experiences as a peri teacher during this pandemic have been mixed, somewhat a dichotomy. On the one hand, as an instrumental teacher I’ve been supported by my amazing private students and their parents, and also experienced the thoughtfulness and value led planning and execution of one school. On the other hand, I’ve realised a level of neglect from another establishment that largely suggests a total lack of value towards, and understanding of, the cross-curricular importance of music to the lives of others, not just the livelihoods of the peri teachers themselves. Things feel very much ‘out of sight, out of mind’, as we are perpetually kept in the shadows at the expense of ourselves and the education and wellbeing of our students. The worst part is that I know I’m not the only one. After all the years I have spent as a peripatetic teacher, I’m seeing that this problem is endemic to peripatetic music teaching, brought to light by COVID. Some organisations and schools are incredibly supportive and driven by healthy values, please don’t get me wrong, I’ve already said I work for one! But, when a peri teacher’s importance and value is not acknowledged by an organisation, often the numerically inclined ‘league table’ driven schools, the importance and the value of the learners education is also not acknowledged.
This thought made me consider a list of values, skills and opportunities that a peripatetic teacher and music learning offers every learner, and how these skills are helpful to students of all walks of life, especially during the pandemic. Crucially, this list could enable our learners to understand their place in the pandemic in a different way, to see opportunity within the restriction. To be creative.
Let’s be clear. Creativity is invention, and as it is often said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. The relationship between necessity and creativity is, in my view, intrinsic and interdependent. Needs need creativity. Creativity needs need.
In no particular order, here is that list of skills:
- Routine development
- To overcome personal and domestic challenges
- A mental release from the stress of day to day life
- Planning for success, and pride in the journey to success
- An understanding of the importance of the journey, and why the journey is worth the effort
- The development – and crucially maintenance – of willpower
- An understanding that the best views are a result of the hardest climbs
- Continual development of resilience
- The importance of questioning and challenging
- The control and management of a situation
- An ability to understand the musical pulse, to understand that when the pulse stops, so does music
- An ability to understand the human pulse, to understand that when the pulse stops, so does life
- To embrace and understand sound and silence
- To embrace and understand light and shade
- The development of language skills, not just spoken, and not just English
- To have a voice, even if it might not be the one they were born with
- Socialising, and as a result belonging and being a part of something vastly bigger than themselves
- Creativity, and honing the skills of problem solving
- To be self reflective, and not damagingly so
- To be considerate and sensitive to the needs of others
- The importance of sitting with feelings and trying to understand what it is that they are communicating to us
- The interdependence of all things, both curricular and otherwise
- The transient nature of everything in life
- To realise own individual values, and to become them
- The importance and joy of serving something to the best of our abilities
- The significance and importance of their life and individuality
The role of a peripatetic teacher is not what it may initially seem to an outsider of, or someone new to our profession. We don’t just turn up and teach songs, that view and belief is an insult to us, our discipline, our passion, our profession, to music, the authors of the music and the cultural heritage of music. As peris, we are much more than that. Yet, as long as we are in the shadows, out of mind, what arena do we have from which to show our true capabilities, our value and our passion for our cause?
If somebody pushes us out of the way, they are aiming to make way for something they believe has greater significance than us. If we aren’t careful, this behaviour could cause us to believe we are insignificant, too.