Sixteen Years of Teaching Accidental(ly) 


I spent sixteen years in a classroom. Through it all I had NO IDEA what my curricula was. Sure, I had the black binder labeled “CURRICULUM” that the district gave me, but I never read it. Its sole purpose was to keep my other unread binder (District Policy and Procedures manual) company. 

I wasn't TOTALLY lost. I knew what music I was playing and what page we were on in the method book, but in terms of really knowing the scope, sequence, and expected outcomes, I was basically clueless. What’s worse, I was the Department Chairperson and served on the District Curriculum Committee, so yeah, let’s just keep this our little secret. Yep, as an instructional leader, I wandered from class to class, concert to concert, and year to year gleefully unaware of what I was actually SUPPOSED TO BE TEACHING. 

As long as we're being honest…

I never read the National Standards, or the No Child Left Behind Act. The only thing I knew about either one of those was that music was listed as a “core subject.” I liked to drop that little nugget at booster meetings and band concerts.

Recently, whether out of guilt or a sense of professional (in)competence, I sat down to read the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). I didn’t just do the Cliff Notes version, I really hunkered down and dove in. How hard could it be? I mean, if I can understand the voicing rules of the Italian, German, and French second chords, then I can understand this, right? Seriously… I GOT THIS! So I sat there for more than an hour, reading and studying. I used a highlighter and took notes in the margins and everything. It was quite an undertaking, and after finishing, I gotta be honest with you… 

I didn’t understand any of it. Yep, NOTHING. Zip, squat, nada

I mean, I understood the words, I just couldn’t translate how it would look and feel in my second period JV band class. Was I a bad teacher? Was I doing this teaching thing wrong? Was I the only one? I panicked! 

I bet science teachers know their science curricula. I bet English teachers know their English curricula. I’m pretty sure history teachers know their curricula, after all, it’s sequential and historical and stuff. HOW COULD I NOT KNOW THIS! 

Then it hit me...

Music is not like other classes, and our curricula is different. Yes, there are outcomes and objectives, but it’s not the same. Our curricula is as much in kids life experiences as it is in a manual. It's as much in children's hearts as it is in their minds. It's measured in smiles and tears and giggles and laughter as much as it is on spreadsheets and performance rubrics. Our curricula is NOT in a binder, it is living and breathing thing capable of changing at any moment. It’s unexpected and unpredictable as the children who learn it. And yes, most times it is anything but sequential.

Yes, we have curricula but even after sixteen years of teaching accidentals, I was still teaching a lot of my curricula accidentally.

That was my favorite part. 

Have a great week!

p.s. Today is Administrative Professionals Day, so maybe you could invite all of your para-professionals down to the rehearsal room for a private concert. Just a thought!