Saturday, 30 June 2012

Saturday 30th June - more on music exams

The other day I was chatting with a teaching colleague who was all of a fluster, becuase she was about to have a lesson observed by another teacher.

"You always look so confident", she said to me, despairingly.

Well, actually, no, I'm not that confident.

On Sundays, when I am sitting at the organ bench, my hands are poised over the first notes of the hymn, but shaking so much that it is going to be a miracle if my fingers land on the right keys. (And they usually do. Not always. But often enough).

During the week, I face classes of 20 - 40 children and attempt to deliver high quality music lessons. I am used to having my lessons hi-jacked, side-tracked, heckled, sabotaged, and diverted by the behaviour of the children, the demands of the school schedule, power cuts, equipment failure, and sometimes by my own lack of judgement, for example in choosing the wrong activity, or having done insufficient planning beforehand. (The lessons are usually good. Sometimes they are, let's say, "unsatisfactory". Sometimes they are brilliant, even if I say so myself.)

I am often observed informally, by my colleagues who teach alongside me, by the class teachers who may join in with enthusiasm, or sit critically on the sidelines, and sometimes observed formally, by my line managers or even Ofsted inspectors.

So, how is it that I appear to be so confident?

I started playing in the the local music festival at the age of 5; climbing up the steep stairs onto the stage, walking half a mile to the huge grand piano, facing acres of seating filled with thousands of faces, lisping out the name of my piece, "Speak up, little girl, say it again, I can't hear you" and then rattling through "Sailor's Dance" or "Toccatina" or whatever. (Okay, so it was the local community centre with maybe fifty children and parents sitting in about four rows of seats. Seemed like more.)

I started doing music exams at the age of about 8, right through to sixth form. I took my teaching diploma when I was in my thirties, after being made redundant from my job in the computer department. Even now, I do a music exam every couple of years in order to have first hand experience of how the exam is presented to my students. (The last was Grade 1 violin and I am very proud of getting a merit, although I still maintain that if I had been forty years younger it might have been more!)

This training has taught me that it is possible to function, and even excel, when inwardly I am jellified with terror. It has been invaluable preparation for job interviews, driving tests, and all the stressy events in a normal adult life.

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