For better or for worse, most states' music teacher licensure includes certification in Kindergarten through high school. While this can be incredibly helpful when it comes to job security, it comes at a cost.
For obvious reasons, most undergraduate colleges and universities try to fit their music education degrees into a four-year time frame. With so many different areas and age groups to learn about, obviously there are going to be areas that don't get focused on as much. Unfortunately, this often is the case when it comes to preparing music educators for the elementary realm.
Below are 5 things I learned while teaching elementary music that I wish I could've learned during my time earning my undergraduate degree:
1. You have to be five steps ahead.
I didn't fully understand just how important looking at things with a "big-picture" attitude was until I started trying to figure out my curricular sequence. In elementary music, you are teaching the fundamental concepts that will be used in their music education for years to come.
Being aware of prerequisite skills is something that can make or break you at the elementary level. Take it from me, it is really easy to assume that your students are able to start learning musical notation and then find out that they are still learning how to track from left to right!
2. You'll likely be creating your own curriculum.
While there is a chance your district will have a curriculum map or guide for you to follow, the reality is that you will probably be creating your own curriculum from scratch.
While we talked about learning sequences and how to make sure lessons build upon each other in undergrad, it's one thing to know that learning should be sequential and knowing what to teach when.
3. How to plan a performance without going crazy.
Performance is obviously a large part of what music is and how it is taught in the public schools these days. The thing is, sometimes we as music educators get too focused on the final product and forget about the musical moments along the way.
While I personally think that performance experiences in general music are incredibly important, I also believe that they should be stress-free and demonstrative of actually happens in our classrooms!
I wish I would've learned how to program a concert at the elementary level while I was working on my undergraduate degree. It definitely would have helped me keep my sanity during my first year of teaching.
4. Classroom management is key!
While this is true at all levels of teaching, it's incredibly important at the elementary level. If you've ever tried to get 25 Kindergartners to make a circle without killing each other, you'll understand.
I wish I would've been able to have more experience in undergrad creating a classroom management plan for the elementary. I mean, let's be honest, when you give a class of fourth graders a recorder, you want them to know when not to play.
5. Lessons take hours to plan.
It can take multiple hours of planning and researching when creating a 30 minute lesson. I know, it sounds incredibly overwhelming and impossibly unrealistic.
But if you're new to elementary music and aren't familiar with repertoire, activities, and resources, you can easily spend hours on Pinterest, in books, and online creating a new high-quality lesson.
If you're an elementary music teacher, or will be one soon, I'd like to invite you to join me for a free webinar on starting the year strong! This live webinar will set you up for success so that you can start the year on the strongest foot. Click here to register for FREE!
Don't get me wrong, I love teaching elementary music. I just wish I could've been a little bit more prepared when I came out of undergrad when it came to some of the aspects of teaching general music.