Auto mechanics have a responsibility when they work on our cars, so there are standards in the mechanic field. Dentists have a responsibility when they work on our teeth, so of course they have standards too. The presence of responsibility is what leads to the necessity of standards. I have always felt very strongly that the field of music should not be one of very few professions left in the United States that is void of any standards at all, because teaching music (especially to a child who may someday apply for a music scholarship) carries tremendous responsibility.
Isn’t it interesting that K-12 and college teachers need degrees to teach their subjects, but anyone who has five years experience playing C, F and G chords in a rock band is somehow automatically qualified to teach music? I find it even more interesting that the people (us teachers!) who are trying to convince school districts not to cut music from their budgets because what kids learn from good music training is so critically important are the same people who apparently don’t feel that teaching music is important enough to be part of a system of standards.
If that isn’t contradiction enough, consider that the Piano Technicians Guild has certification standards for piano technicians that seem to be more well-known (and sought out!) than the certification standards for music teachers, and yet piano teachers’ responsibility to students is far greater than piano technicians’ responsibility to pianos. A poorly-tuned piano can be retuned in an hour. A poorly-voiced piano can be revoiced in a few hours. A poorly-built piano can be rebuilt in a few days! But it can take years to retrain a poorly-trained student. For some reason, the “fun and joy” element of music seems to prevent some from seeing that standards are necessary. I hear, “as long as everyone is having fun, it’s all good.” I argue that fun, joy and standards can and should co-exist!
In case these ironies aren’t reason enough to motivate serious consideration of certification, I made a list of reasons any teacher should want to become NCTM:
- Additional legitimacy in raising rates because your qualifications have been made “official” or “even more official.”
- Receive student referrals from those who search for teachers from the “Find a Certified Teacher” link on the MTNA website. Note the “Find a Certified Teacher” link out at mtna.org.
- If you’ve ever wanted a title, you can put “NCTM” after your name. Many teachers do this!
- Advertise with the “MTNA Nationally Certified Teacher of Music” logo in all of your newsletters and recital programs (I do!). Does the logo to the right not look enticing?
- Give your students additional peace of mind that they are in good hands. Don’t we all feel better about hiring a licensed plumber than we do about hiring a guy who says he is really good and expects us to take his word for it?
- In the case that your musical knowledge currently falls short of what is required to become NCTM, going through certification will not only encourage but necessitate growth for you as a teacher, bringing great benefit to you and especially your students! Making the desirable necessary is the way I’ve always approached my own growth. I also prefer burning my bridges after I cross them so that I can’t turn back! Pay the certification application fee today!
- Since part of the certification process involves aspects of professionalism such as volunteerism, continuing education and student participation in music events, bearing the NCTM title shows dedication to teaching that cannot be evaluated by any college degree program.
- You can join me in becoming a strong advocate that the music teaching profession should not be void of standards. Deep down inside, we all know this position of advocacy is a great cause, but it’s hard to advocate this position if we ourselves do not serve as examples of it. Do you want to continue being part of the apathetic silence that inevitably results from not setting an example?
- Bring the country one step closer to the glorious day when a majority of the population includes the question, “Are you certified?” in their interview of possible new teachers.
What do you have to lose? Pay a visit to www.mtnacertification.org and go for it! (See the “Certification Process” menu.) Do keep in mind that you are also surrounded by friends. Every state has a Certification Chair whose job it is to help you understand the certification process, and every local MTA chapter has plenty of people who are more than eager to give their time to you to help in any way they can.