Is there any way to change a school culture where the classroom teachers view the specialists as second class citizens? This is a big problem in one of my buildings.

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By saying this, I mean that we frequently get treated like a subordinate rather than a colleague. Classroom teachers often give directives to specialists instead of coming to us in a more collaborative way. When it is brought up to the principal in that building, he always takes the classroom teachers’ sides no matter what the issue is.

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It starts with the head. Of the principal doesn’t do it no one will. I suggest if your the classroom teacher that you light the path but if your not you got to get the principal on your side because once he’s on your side everyone will follow

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Well I’m one of the specialists and when one of my coworkers brings something up to the principal about an issue he always takes their side. My husband said the same thing—that the principal has to treat us as equals with the classroom teachers and that doesn’t happen because he was a classroom teacher himself before. Thanks for your thoughts!

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I think it’s important to let the teacher know you are here for business and not just a high priced babysitter. Go to the teacher and say, “I’ve noticed that little Johnny is having problems in XYZ. How do you think I can help him more? I’ve thought of trying this?” By the way, what kind of specialist are you?

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I would just make yourself available. And if you notice something ask the teacher how they would like for certain situations to be handled. I’m definitely not a music teacher, but I can see your frustration. It’s about communication and trying to open the door between two totally different classroom atmospheres.

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Are you part of a teacher union? I would go to your rep and discuss your concerns, then call a meeting with the principal and rep together if you want to take it that far... Keep your head up and voice your concern in a professional manner. If the culture doesn't change then I would start looking at other places to work if possible. But the principal should be the one to initiate change if it is needed...

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This is definitely a frustrating situation. How often do you keep admin and staff up to date on what you’re doing? I have a school FB page and send out monthly newsletters showing what we are doing in class. Until people really see what you’re working on, they will make assumptions on what we do. Relating what you do to other areas is so important too. For example we’re using music to practice our higher level thinking skills, math skills, science skills, etc. One of my biggest successes this year was teaching civil war music while my 3rd graders were combing through the civil war in their history unit. Science of Sound Units were popular too. Tying in activities to what students are doing in their core classes helps bridge the gap.

I say its pretty easy. Just show them how important you can be in terms of making their lives easy or hellish! For example, giving the kids sugar candy 5 minutes they go back to the classroom teacher is fun. Another thing that you might consider is that CONCERTS are not a required part of most job responsibilities of Music Educators - yes we are expected to do them, but they are not necessarily in the contract. If that is the case, those teachers who don’t treat specialists with the same respect as they do other colleagues, can have their students excluded from concert. When parents ask why their students are not included, you can push the blame back on the classroom teacher and explain that the classroom teacher does not value music education and communicates that to the students so there is no reason to participate in the extras such as concerts. Of course, as you gain experience in years, you will realize that it does not make a bit of difference what other teachers think. What matters is the students and the contract. Chances are you are under the same contract as the classroom teacher and given the same years of experience and level of education, you both make the same salary with the same benefits. Those teachers who belittle specials, just show their own insecurity about why they are there themselves.

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