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