Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century. (Certification News)

By Lancaster, E. L. | American Music Teacher, June-July 2003 | Go to article overview

Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century. (Certification News)


Lancaster, E. L., American Music Teacher


Editor's Note: Some twelve years have now passed since E.L. Lancaster's article, "Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century," appeared in the February 1990 issue of Clavier. A reprint of the article here seems as appropriate and relevant today as when it was first published. For, here we are now, three years into the twenty-first century, and the professional issues E.L. confronted in this article are still being addressed today.

The 20th century has witnessed a number of positive changes in the independent music teaching profession. Even the term independent music teacher represents a step forward; unlike the mis-used term private teacher, it reflects that teaching now incorporates many educational approaches beyond the traditional private lessons. Other developments include the creation of the Independent Music Teachers Forum by the Music Teachers National Association; articles in professional journals addressing the problems of independent music teachers; the K.T.V. video conference, sponsored by Baldwin Piano and Organ Company and Clavier; and new degree programs in pedagogy at many colleges.

As we move toward the 21st century, our goal should be to make independent music teaching a true profession. This will challenge those currently in the field and those training future teachers. The following proposals may sound radical, if not impossible to achieve, and may provoke resistance or even anger. My hope is that they will stimulate discussion and action among members of the profession.

It should be against the law to teach piano without a license. For years we have wondered what to do about the unqualified piano teacher. Certification programs, workshops for teachers, and pedagogy courses have attempted to upgrade the quality of teaching. Although they have served a useful purpose, these programs are purely voluntary.

I propose to bar those without proper education from teaching. Such a policy is standard in many other professions: public schools have done it for years, and doctors and lawyers require certification. This raises the question of who certifies the teachers, the federal government or the state. Getting the necessary legislation passed would require hiring lobbyists and raising money to pay them, a process that could damage the image of the independent teaching profession.

We need a national marketing campaign to educate the public on the importance of a good music education. Research by Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago has shown that the first teacher sets the tone for a student's attitude toward music for an entire lifetime, yet too many parents still choose the teacher who is cheaper or most convenient. Certification or licensing of teachers will help, but raising public awareness will require an expensive national marketing campaign, one as memorable as Brooke Shields wearing Calvin Klein jeans or Wendy's asking, "Where's the beef?" Many prominent music teachers are qualified to lead such a campaign in conjunction with a marketing firm, but choosing the leader and funding the campaign present major challenges.

We should educate prospective teachers about the financial rewards of independent music teaching. The Chronicle for Higher Education gives the average salaries of college teachers, and other sources list average salaries in the medical, legal, and business professions; yet statistics on piano teaching income are hard to obtain. Our professional organizations should conduct an ongoing scientific study to compile statistics on what a piano teacher can expect to make per year for a given amount of teaching per week in a specific area of the country.

We should do more than just tell students they aren't going to get rich teaching piano; we should be able to tell them exactly how much money they can make for a given amount of work. Although we may fear they'll react by choosing a different profession, committed students will pursue teaching regardless of the financial rewards.

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