Let’s be honest, one of the amazing things about being a music teacher is that we get to see so many students in one school day. By doing this we are able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students in a single day, which if you ask me is absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, we also need to be aware of letting one class’s behavior affect us after they’ve left our classrooms. It can be so easy to let one class put you in a funk and to carry that with you when the next class comes in for their music lesson. I’ve done it for sure. It can be hard to give each class the best of ourselves when we just got done with a particularly rough class before they entered the room.
However, for the sake of our students (as well as our own sanity), we need to make a conscious effort to start fresh at the beginning of each class and not carry the stressors from earlier in the day change the way we make music with our students.
This isn’t easy. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m sometimes not able reset. I’m definitely guilty of carrying over some stress from the previous class, and it rarely goes well.
So here are a few of the ways that I regroup between classes to make sure that I am always in a good headspace for my students.
Write Down a Positive Moment
Even in the roughest of classes, there will likely be at least a couple of moments that are positive. Maybe it's a quiet student that is finally trying to sing. Or maybe one of my students who has experienced a lot of trauma was able to make it through the entire class without needing to take a break.
Even in the worst moments, there are likely gems of magic that are happening too. Not only is this a great exercise after a particularly rough class, but it’s also an incredibly healthy way to view the class as it’s happening. I’ve found that it's a lot easier to make it through a difficult class when you are looking for the positive moments.
After the students have left and the dust has settled, take some time to think about why the lesson flopped. Had the students been testing all day? Were they not in the right headspace for what you tried to do? Was it too simple or too difficult? Did you give your students the tools they needed to be successful?
Take some time to think about whether or not anything was wrong with the lesson itself, or maybe it was just a problem in timing. Look at the entire lesson and see what was successful and what could have gone better. Take a look at the sequencing and make sure that you've given your students the tools that they need in order to have been successful with the lesson.
Take a couple of deep breaths. Take a moment of mindfulness and try to relax a little bit. If, like me, you don’t have any time between classes, you can even have your students join you.
Mindfulness is something that our students need to practice as well. If you need to take a moment and breathe and listen to music at the beginning of class to reset, then have your students join you. This can also be incredibly beneficial for our students as they transition into the music classroom.
There is a great episode of the Music Teacher Coffee Talk podcast that is all about mindfulness in the music classroom. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you want to learn more about how you can implement mindfulness into your classroom.
We've all been there: you spend an hour on a lesson and are so excited to finally get to share it with your students. You prepare all of the manipulatives and resources and jump right in with your students. Then the worst happens: the lesson completely flops.
There's nothing quite as unnerving as realizing the lesson you've worked so hard on isn't being received by your students in the way you had expected. It happens, and it stinks. It can be such a nasty blow to our confidence, and we begin to second guess everything.
Unfortunately, this is all just part of the gig. Lessons fail. Sometimes lessons fail for things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes the deck is just stacked against you. It is what you do after the lesson that really matters.
Take some time to remember why you teach, and work as hard as you can to leave one class’s behavior stay in that class and not bleed into the next!
Yup. It's that time of year when a quarter of the school is out sick. As flu season fully kicks off, I think it's a good time to talk about staying healthy when we see hundreds of germ sponges, I mean children, each and every day.
1. Wash Those Hands
Okay, you knew this was coming. I really hope that hand-washing is not a novel concept to us as teachers. While it might sound like a given, I think it's too important to leave off the list.
I am lucky enough to have a sink in my classroom at my elementary classroom. I take a few seconds at the end of each class during flu season and wash my hands. While I don't have a sink to wash my hands in my middle school classroom, I do make it a point to use hand sanitizer at the end of each period.
2. Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize
If your school has students bring in Clorox wipes at the beginning of the year, I recommend asking your teachers if they have a couple they could share from their stash.
Especially with things that are shared between students like mallets, Boomwhackers, and other instruments, it's important to sanitize them as often as possible.
3. Stay Hydrated
This is a great tip for anytime throughout the year, especially for those of us that end up singing most of the day. I have a large insulated cup that I fill up multiple times throughout the day.
Drinking water is an easy way to help our bodies be prepared to fight back when we inevitably are exposed to the newest strain of stomach bug.
4. Have Your Students Wash Their Hands
I am lucky that my elementary classroom is right next to the bathroom. I don't do this all of the time, but when attendance lists begin to look extra bleak with students out sick, I actually have my students wash their hands before they enter the classroom, especially when I know I have folk dances or passing games in my lesson plan.
5. Take a Sick Day
If you are sick, you are sick. I know it can be a crazy amount of work getting sub plans ready. I know that we have a nation-wide sub shortage. I get it. But if you need to take a day, take a day.
Let's face it, we're all gonna get sick at some point. We are surrounded by little humans, it's just part of the job. But hopefully by following some of the things on this list you will be able to take fewer sick days, stay healthy, and stop the music room from becoming the epicenter of the newest plague.
Dear First-Year Teachers,
Thank you. Thank you for pouring yourself into your classroom day in and day out. Thank you for shedding blood, sweat, and tears for the sake of our students. Thank you.
I see you. I see you taking work home with you each and everyday. I see you spending nights and weekends crafting lesson plans. I see you providing the basic needs to your students when you need to. I see you.
You make a difference. You make a difference to the students that love coming to school. You make a difference to the students who have traumatic homes. You make a difference; even on bad days.
Being a teacher is like being pulled a hundred different directions. Meetings, conferences, professional development days, and edTPES are only a few of the things we juggle in addition to teaching students. Being a first year teacher is like reinventing the wheel. Starting from scratch, and trying to be perfect.
Being a first-year teacher is one of the hardest things you will ever do. But you will make it through. You will come out the other side a completely different person, and those moments in your first year will forever change you as an educator.
Thank you for joining this thankless profession. I see you putting your entire being into being a teacher.. You make a difference in the lives of so many.
Thank You. I see you. You make a difference.
Bryson Tarbet is the music educator and blogger behind That Music Teacher.