Strategy Seven: Using Experts

This week our music teacher added to The Black Book. Now every teacher has occasionally used their own experiences to contextualize learning for students, but our music teacher has been working on ways to incorporate his own music contacts in to his lessons without it making it too anecdotal.

For artistic subjects especially, it may seem that students don’t always take it seriously when they are told how difficult it is to get in to particular career fields. As part of the music students’ preparations for various units and exams, students need to think about and learn what it means to be a ‘real musician’ and what they would do in given situations.

Since students in his class were not quite appreciating just how hard a musician has to work, beyond playing gigs in pubs etc, our music teacher contacted some of his friends in the industry and asked for them to film little clips of themselves explaining some of the realities of their careers.

One example presented was a musician currently touring with a famous music artist. Not only was the video made specially for the students, making them feel highly engaged with the topic, but since the words were not coming from their teacher, it made the students take the information more seriously.

Further to this, the students could ask specific questions after the video which their teacher messaged to the contact. The replies were almost instantaneous and made students all the more curious, prompting even more questions. The interactivity with someone who was in a career field that these students themselves wished to one day pursue provided valuable insight for the KS4 students.

Of course, not everyone has friends who are musicians or published authors or geographers exploring hidden depths of the rainforests. However, there are still ways that this strategy can be applied to other subjects. Most teachers have friends in different fields or who followed different paths after university. For many students, their real life experiences and world view are incredibly limited to their family and their school. This means that any additional perspectives we can provide them with are valuable.

In an age of webcam calls and FaceTime, with the ability to quickly and easily record footage and speak to people across great distances, it is far easier to invite outside parties in to our classrooms than it once was. Whether you know someone working at a museum, as an architect, in local government or perhaps in industries such as building or cooking, there are ways to incorporate these additional voices in to our classroom with only a little preplanning.

Our own voices can become boring sometimes and there are only so many times students can hear the story of how once, we needed to use Pythagoras to calculate where to place our ladder so that we could wash our windows. By reaching out to those outside of the profession not only do we increase variety in our lessons and improve engagement by students, we are also encouraging their curiosity to learn about alternative career paths and ask questions that may guide and influence their futures.