I’ve been doing some research into something I swore I would never do: get a doctoral degree. Because this is a huge decision, I’ve tapped my friends and family to help guide me as I make this choice.
One was quick to point out that so much of what I want to learn to progress in my career can be gleaned without going back to school and investing in a PhD.
This is true for many of the areas we want to improve in our teaching craft. Perhaps we want to improve our classroom management? Or be able to select better repertoire? For those of you looking for ways to expand your knowledge, here are some ideas for how to do so without the time and expense of going back to school.
There are lots of music education blogs and books available for a variety of topics that you’re interested in. Whether you want more K-2 singing game ideas, technology lesson plans, or classroom behavior management, there are experienced music educators out there to guide you along your way. Neet to start a booster program? There’s a guide for that. Not sure which notation program will work best for your situation? There’s blogs for that, too.
Many music education bloggers can be found in one place, on musicedblogs.com. There are a lot to choose from. You can avoid getting too overwhelmed by selecting just a few to follow. Once you have your favorites, sign up for their email list. That way the content will be delivered right to your email inbox.
Podcasts are a great learning tool and can be consumed easily. Listen on your commute, while you clean your house, or while working out. Similar to blogs, podcasts tend to have a particular theme or topic that they cover. Find the ones who are talking about the things you’d like to learn and subscribe.
There are podcasts curated specifically for elementary, band, orchestra, general music, preventing burnout, program management, curriculum and instruction, and some that are just fascinating interviews with inspiring people. Many podcasters are happy to tailor their content to your needs. You can suggest topics you’d like discussed, or experts you’d like them to interview. Most will be very happy to oblige.
Online professional development workshops are becoming more mainstream now than ever. From the National Association for Music Education’s Academy, which provides on-demand webinars recorded by educators around the country, to the International Music Education Summit, which provides live and on-demand options, there’s something for you to watch and learn.
The online platform means you can access these workshops, clinics, and sessions from wherever you are. You can pause, rewind, and re-watch the topics that you’d like to review. You can also access a certificate of completion with several of the online workshops. These professional development workshops are also curated by music educators, for music educators, to ensure the topics are relevant and the teachers are engaging.
Many bloggers and podcasters also offer free online workshops. If you’re looking for specific how-to videos, there are also a wealth of them available on YouTube, though you may have to search a little longer to discover exactly what you’re hoping for. Whichever way you go, if you prefer to watch and learn, there are options out there for you.
Online learning doesn’t stop with single-topic workshops and webinars. There are more online courses now than ever, with video lessons, worksheets, and tasks to engage you in an even deeper dive into the content. Websites like Udemy and Teachable boast thousands of online courses to teach you everything from how to prepare an accounting statement to how to dress for your next concert.
In addition to online courses, there are plenty of new apps coming available to help increase your musical skills. Did you learn to play flute growing up, but now have to teach a guitar class? Apps like Yousician are ready to guide you through your learning. Are you a percussionist who needs to work on teaching orchestra? Practicing Musician is ready to train you. You don’t even have to use a service that logs you in. Many bloggers and educators are offering free email courses, where each lesson is sent right to your email inbox. If you’re ready for a more in-depth experience, online courses are just the ticket.
Participating in a live event, whether virtually or in-person, is a great way to connect with your best professional resource of all: other music educators. Live events require more time and dedication but can also reap some excellent rewards. Your questions can be answered in real time, and your own experience can be shared to help others. Live conferences help you create life-long connections with like-minded music educators and are worth the investment to make it happen.
I encourage you to attend your state music educators conference, or one of the other outstanding organized opportunities created for you to extend your learning, whether in-person or online. No matter how you prefer to learn, or what topic you want to delve into, there is a way for you to do it without having to go back to college.