What are we missing in training for peripatetic and private music teachers?

This post was going to be about tuning machine apps but I changed my mind at the last minute. A few conversations with friends over the past week have left me thinking about something else. Training for peripatetic and private music teachers tends to focus on music – specifically lessons, resources and child protection. This is useful but what else should we know as self-employed or freelance tutors?

Difficulties accessing music teacher training

Peripatetic music teachers who work through music services, trusts or hubs will usually have access to a few training sessions a year. These are usually mandatory, but the nature of this type of work means that they get missed. A lot of peri teachers are employed by more than one place – sometimes two, three or four schools – to ensure a steady stream of income and also have to fit this around other work (performing, composing, arranging, writing etc.). If rescheduling isn’t possible, you’ll still incur a financial loss by attending a training session over some other work that you have booked.

Unlike peri teachers, private music teachers and those employed directly by schools don’t usually have access to any continual professional development training (CPD) at all unless they can pay for this themselves. I have heard of music hubs or services offering empty training spaces to local private teachers but this still ends up being expensive. Even if a free space if offered or the tutor is willing to pay for the training themselves, it’s still not possible if any other work can’t be rescheduled.

Where do music teachers get information from now?

We know that we don’t know everything. Most of us do want to learn more, even if it’s just to make our lives easier. My circle of Facebook friends is made up of about 80% musicians and most of these also teach individually or in groups across all levels. Looking at the questions that get posted, most of us are pretty open to advice and want to learn from each other. The problem is knowing who to ask. Some of us are lucky enough to have big international Facebook groups based around instruments or styles of music but not all of the questions that come up are about teaching music. A lot of the time, they’re pretty generic and could apply to visiting tutors of any subject.

It’s about more than teaching music

Music teacher training tends to focus on resources or child protection but there are lots of other things need to be understood. Being self-employed or freelancing means that there’s no HR department to advise you on policy or best practice. You’re responsible for all areas of your career and need to deal with the difficult things before something goes wrong. This can be as simple as realising that you should pass an issue on to someone else. I’ve seen questions about tax returns, difficult schools or parents, zero-hours contracts and students with special educational needs. I’ve dealt with some of these myself but not always successfully. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it would be great to know how to deal with these before they’ve become an issue.

Where do you go for information?

What do you do when you need information related to musical work? Do you contact the Musicians’ Union or Incorporated Society of Musicians or any of the music charities for advice? Which (non-musical) areas of work would it be useful to learn about as a music professional? What do you and your colleagues complain about the most?


Also published on Medium.

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