Professionally, what can piano teachers do that Pilates teachers can’t (or dentists, lawyers, pharmacists etc.)?
Monday mornings are sacrosanct for me – first thing I go to a weekly Pilates session where I try to work with my body to get it more responsive and flexible (not always very successfully I have to admit!). This week my Pilates teacher Alex was talking about the importance of ongoing professional development for all Pilates teachers. This is something they have no choice in – if they want to teach they have to invest in their professional development.
Essentially, in order to remain insured and keep teaching each year, Pilates teachers have to gain 100 points through attending courses. Some courses are 30 points and others are 20 points. It is an ongoing process that everyone engaged in the profession, from the highest to the lowest, are involved in.
THE BIG FAT ZERO
As piano teachers we are unusual as a ‘profession’ (see my other blogs for more on this) as there is absolutely no requirement for individuals to undertake anything in the way of professional development. But just because we don’t have to doesn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t. Just as we plan all our pupils’ learning for the year we should be considering what our own professional development plans are for the next 12 months.
IF WE DON’T *HAVE* TO DO IT – WHY DO IT?
Ongoing professional development provides us with three essential forms of support:
- it refreshes us, gives us new strength and ideas through listening and meeting with other piano teachers
- it restores us and brings back forgotten or neglected techniques
- it allows us to reflect and consider deeply new and old ideas
The fact that many of us are aware of these three elements was highlighted in the research that I undertook in 2010 (Cathcart 2013). Here are what some of the teachers had to say about professional development.
Nearly all of the teachers (80%) thought that their professional development was important to their teaching.
Many of them had positive comments to make about Professional Development Courses (PDC):
Of course, professional development isn’t necessarily all about going on a course. I have joined my local orchestra recently and know that the experience will heighten my sense of being a musician – if for no other reason than getting used to following a conductor again!
Teachers in the Piano Survey 2010 also commented on these alternative forms of professional development such as learning from peers and continuing to have lessons.
From a teacher who works in a thriving music department
‘There is constant lively discussion and debate on music education related topics amongst us where insights and knowledge are freely shared’. [R: 540]
Learning through playing
‘I continue with private piano lessons….It encourages me to keep thinking through new ideas and keeps my teaching fresh’. [R: 31]
THE PROBLEMS OF ATTENDING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Despite this predominantly positive view of professional development many teachers highlighted the practical problems of attending PDC.
Some were just too busy because of teaching or family commitments:
For a number of others cost was a problem:
[PDC] ‘Are expensive in relation to my income’ [R: 199]
‘I would love to attend more. It’s a case of too little time and too little money’ [R: 462]
And then, of course, where the course is held was another issue:
So there are problems, that we all acknowledge. But I believe all the difficulties are worth overcoming as we leave professional development days or courses with renewed vigour and enthusiasm for our teaching and often more confidence in our abilities as a teacher.
So is it really true that we don’t have to do any professional development?
At the end of the day each one of us has to turn the spotlight inwards and ask how happy, confident and comfortable we are in our own teaching skills and what we present to our ‘customers’ – students and parents.
We all feel vulnerable in our teaching from time to time (I know I certainly do). But, with the backing of ongoing professional development and the support of our peers we can find the strength to face our fears and problems, secure in the knowledge that, in those moments of uncertainty there are places and people we can connect to who will help and advise us.
So whether you have had a fabulous week of teaching or have been challenged by a pupil and are feeling a bit vulnerable – either way, know that you are not alone.
Sharon and I are inviting you come and feel that connection by joining us, and lots of other piano teachers, at a free webinar dedicated to Professional Development on Thursday October 1st at 7pm.
- learn about professional development courses currently available in the UK
- discover why investing in your professional development gives you increased confidence as a teacher
- work out what kind of professional development is a good fit for you right now
It’s easy to book your free place by clicking here: ‘Looking at options for professional development’
I do hope to see you there.