Elementary Music

Tips for the New Music Teacher from My First Year of Teaching

It is now June, and I have finished my first of teaching elementary music. I am no longer a new music teacher. It has been a good, long year. It has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it. Teaching anything—let alone elementary music—has its ups and downs.

So if you are reading this, about to be a new music teacher, here are some tips for what to expect and how to get through the first year of elementary music.

Tips for the New Music Teacher from my first year: Some useful help from my first year teaching elementary music. Becca's Music Room



Overplan

This is a lesson I learned in my first grade class on the very first day of school.

Overplan.

What I mean by that is plan way more than you can get done.

Trust me, there is nothing worse than getting through your 50-minute lesson in 20 minutes and then having a bunch of bouncy, distracted first graders staring at you. And you being out of things to do.

It is something you never want to repeat.

Keep an eye on the clock as you go, and I suggest writing down on your plans how long you think each portion will take. This way, if you think the introduction will take ten minutes, and it only takes five, then you know you need to extend something else.

In my lessons, I always try to have something that you can extend. For example, pretend you are teaching a song. If you notice that you are running early, you can always extend a song longer. You can add in some rhythm or melodic work into the lesson. With older students, you can add make it into a round. You can add instruments to help.

I also add something to my lessons as a contingency plan. At the bottom of my lesson plans, I literally write something like this:

EXTRA: If there is extra time, he teacher will read the book I Know a Shy Fellow who Swallowed a Cello.

Or watch a video. Or review a song. Or whatever.

You will not always need this, but when you do, it helps to have a plan. And it can be the same plan for a few weeks.

Don’t feel stressed by this. You can literally just keep a pile of books on your desk as a “just in case”.


Have a plan b

This goes along with the last one. It will take you all of a few weeks as a new music teacher to learn that school are full of all sorts of random, unexpected things that will be thrown at you at the last second.

Right before the end of school, the principal walked in at the beginning of my fifth grade and announced that a band director was coming to talk to the kids. When that was over, it was too late for my normal lesson and I had to change plans on the spot.

And the last week of school, I had no idea that I was teaching all classes in the classrooms. And I didn’t know that I was helping with testing that week too.

And I didn’t know that I was helping with kindergarten and fifth grade graduations. And I didn’t know that I would be doing class parties.

I don’t tell you these things to scare you, but just to show you that things change. And you may not know until five minutes before (if you are lucky).

Have a few activities on the back burner for those weird and crazy days.

If you need some help, you can read this post that I wrote about back up plans in the music room.



Keep learning

I know that you just finished school and have no desire to go back there, but don’t cut yourself off from learning. It doesn’t have to be crazy. Read some books. Check out a conference. Get on Pinterest—serious, you can get all of you lesson ideas from Pinterest! (you can follow mine if you click here for some music teaching ideas).

My best tip? Find some other music teachers to talk to. Even if you just get together with someone and have coffee, I cannot tell you how much it helps to talk to someone who understands. And although I love my fellow classroom teachers, they have different views than we do.

I find that most people are very happy to talk to anyone—just shoot them an email. One thing I am so glad that I did was add some music teachers on instagram. I know that seems stupid, but it is so nice to share in the joys and struggles of other music teachers. And they have lots of ideas that I like to steal… (you can click on my instagram at the top of the page).

 

Don’t take it personally

So…. This is part that we never want to talk about. But y’all… kids are mean sometimes. Most of your kids will be sweet, but some of them will not. Some of them enjoy getting under a teacher’s skin. Especially under the skin of the new music teacher. Some do it on purpose.

And some do it totally not on purpose. Because kids also have no sensitivity. They don’t think twice to ask you if you are pregnant or if you know how to do math or if you are turning 100.

Yes, all of these happened to me this year.

So whether it is on purpose or not on purpose, don’t take it personally. Try your best to just let it roll off of your back.

If it is on purpose, remember that the child has much bigger issues than you. They are bugging you to try to gain much needed attention. Allowing them to get under your skin just gives them what they want—and they will continue it.

And if it’s not on purpose, then they really don’t realize they are being rude. You may want to tell them gently that it is not appropriate—but don’t get mad at them for not realizing something is rude.

And for really rough days, check out this post.

 

Get a hobby

This, incidentily, will help you with letting things roll off of your back.

Find a hobby that will allow you to relax. I took up painting this year, and it has certainly helped keep me sane (you can check out my etsy shop if you’re curious). And I figure it is better than watching Netflix all night…. Although, you can paint and watch Netflix…

You can read, dance, write, arrange flowers, garden, whatever. My dad (also in education) has been a whole new man since he took up kayaking.

Find something you enjoy and do it!

Tips for the New Music Teacher from my first year: Some useful help from my first year teaching elementary music. Becca's Music Room



Remember to have fun

Like I said at the beginning, there are both ups and downs to teaching elementary music. Especially for the new music teacher.

Some days you will wonder why on earth you chose to do this. You may go home and swear that you are never having kids (until you remember that you will never have 20 eight year olds at the same time).

And some days will be wonderful.

Sometimes I joke about getting paid to dance and sing and play games with kids all day. But really—I get paid to dance and sing and play games with kids all day. How awesome is that?!

There are some times that you will think, “I cannot believe I get paid to do this.”

Hang onto those days. They may be frequent of they may be far apart, but remember those feelings.



If you are starting out as a new music teacher, there are great joys ahead of you. No one will pretend that it is all sunshine and rainbows, but it is pretty great.

Hopefully some of my advice will help you in your first year.

What advice would you give a new music teacher? Let us know in the comments!

If you need some more help, you can read through some of my posts for help, or shoot me an email if you have any questions.

Subscribe and follow me on social media for more help in teaching music!

Happy teaching!



Tips for the New Music Teacher from my first year: Some useful help from my first year teaching elementary music. Becca's Music Room


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Elementary Music, Organization

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever!

As school starts, teachers purchase a lot of things for their classrooms. Some stock up on pencils, pens, crayons, and composition books. Some redecorate their classrooms.

I tried to spend a minimal amount of money. I think it is good practice to save as much money as possible in the classroom. Ten dollars here and five there adds up very quickly, especially after 30 years of teaching– which is how long you will be teaching if you plan on getting your retirement (at least in Georgia).

My rule is: Do not buy consumable things.

I don’t buy pencils. I don’t buy crayons. Because the kids destroy them, and they are gone quickly.

I may one day have different views. But as a new teacher (not getting paid for like two months after I start working), I was not willing to buy anything that would only last one class period.

I bought normal office things that I would have bought no matter where I was working: pencil cups, binders, magazine racks, etc.

I also stumbled across the. Best. Purchase. Ever.

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever! Becca's Music Room. This cart is the answer to my prayers and what keeps me sane. I do not lose things since I bought it. Need more convincing? Read this article to find out more!

A metal rolling cart.

That may not sound very exciting, but trust me, it is the bomb!

You may not have this problem, but I am THE WORST about setting things down and forgetting where I put them. Pencils, seating charts, books with the song we are singing this week, my tambourine… I pick them up, I put them down, and I cannot find them anywhere.

All of the time.

In comes my new rolling cart. It holds everything that I use on a normal day—and it moves! So if I need to stand in the back of the classroom while we watch a video, I can. I can put it in the front while I am talking. I can move it out-of-the-way when we are dancing.

Also: My First Experience with Donor’s Choose

This purchase has literally changed my life.

I do not lose things. When a student needs to go to the nurse, the pass and a pen are on my cart. When I need to double-check a student’s name on the clipboard, it is on my cart. When I need to jingle my tambourine to get the kids’ attention, it is on my cart (and yes, I do that). When I need my animal manipulatives for a fun form lesson, they are on the cart, or popsicle sticks to teach little kids about rhythm. (Check out my Animal Form lesson here and my Popsicle Rhythm lesson here.)

I probably sound ridiculous, but it has really changed my life. I am so much more organized. I do not lose time trying to find things that I set down on the table or on my desk or on the piano or on the… floor?

Granted, you could just use a table. But a rolling cart can move all around the classroom, and that makes life so much easier!

The cart really saved my life during the weeks that I was travelling to classrooms. There was a water leakage situation that resulted in me being spontaneously out of my classroom for a month. The first day, I was able to throw my crayons, paper, tambourines, CD player, and bingo game onto the rolling cart and roll it all around the school. Everything stayed together, I didn’t have a million bags to carry, and when I got to the classrooms, my stuff stayed together. I really do not know what I would have done for the month (!) without my rolling cart.

You can learn about the lesson I taught while traveling here.

So what do I keep on my cart?

It is not always the same. But here are the basic things:

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever! Becca's Music Room. This cart is the answer to my prayers and what keeps me sane. I do not lose things since I bought it. Need more convincing? Read this article to find out more

Top Shelf:

I try to keep this clutter free as possibly (if you had seen it before I picked up the 20 pencils and 10 confiscated toys, you would be laughing at that comment). The most important thing? Seating chart! I use a clipboard with storage underneath for extra information that is pertinent (mostly for subs). I keep seating charts in a binder like this, and clip the ones for the day onto the clipboard.

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever! Becca's Music Room. This cart is the answer to my prayers and what keeps me sane. I do not lose things since I bought it. Need more convincing? Read this article to find out more

Other items include:

  • Gotcha tickets (our school’s PBIS system)
  • Sticky notes for notes on clipboard or other teachers
  • Notepad which I sometimes write my lesson plans on
  • Anything I need for a day (usually Game Plan or this book) This week it is a yellow plastic thing we are using as a button for the game Button You Must Wander.

 

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever! Becca's Music Room. This cart is the answer to my prayers and what keeps me sane. I do not lose things since I bought it. Need more convincing? Read this article to find out more

Second Shelf:

  • Tambourine (used for getting students’ attention)
  • Nurse pass and hall pass
  • Owl Beanie Baby
  • Weird light-up rubber thing I toss to students when they answer questions
  • Pail with pencils, pens, markers, remote, etc.

 

 

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever! Becca's Music Room. This cart is the answer to my prayers and what keeps me sane. I do not lose things since I bought it. Need more convincing? Read this article to find out more

Bottom Shelf:

Still not convinced about the best classroom purchase ever?

Get it, and I promise it will become your favorite classroom purchase as well– unless you enjoy losing things.

Here it is in teal:

And in grey like mine:

 

What is your favorite classroom purchase? Let me know in the comments!

The Best Classroom Purchase Ever! Becca's Music Room. This cart is the answer to my prayers and what keeps me sane. I do not lose things since I bought it. Need more convincing? Read this article to find out more

 


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